To Trade the Stars

by Julie E. Czerneda

Cover image

Series: Trade Pact #3
Publisher: DAW
Copyright: June 2002
ISBN: 0-7564-0075-9
Format: Mass market
Pages: 479

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To Trade the Stars is the last book in the Trade Pact trilogy. It had been over two years since I'd read the previous book and I only had minor trouble remembering enough of what had happened previously to follow the plot. You will want to read the previous books, though, as they set up the world and characters and introduce the Drapsk, and Czerneda provides reminders but not a full recap.

The previous installments have both gone in different directions, rather than following a single trilogy-long plot, and this installment is no exception. The Drapsk are back and their trouble with the telepathic parallel dimension (the M'hir) is a major plot driver this time, but there are a few other plots running in parallel, most notably a Clan faction and their foster children. Most of the book focuses on Sira and Jason, but it uses the same structure of Sira first-person segments interwoven with "interludes" from other viewpoints and many characters get a turn. Huido, the monstrous restaurant owner, returns (more towards the end of the book) and is as funny and likeable as always; his parts are the best parts of the book.

Czerneda does feel like she had to reach a bit to tie Sira into the problems of the Drapsk. Late in the book, there's an extensive bit of retconning of her story, retelling the story of her childhood but including some additional events that weren't previously shown in the series. Sira's backstory is interesting and I enjoyed seeing more of it, but the retroactive rewriting felt forced and a bit artificial. I'm also not sure I bought the end of the Drapsk plot, although the rest of it worked. In the Drapsk, Czerneda has a great ambiguous ally and an extremely alien species with its own agenda. They get a bit silly occasionally, but not enough to bother me. It's a good way to generate plot and conflict without a typical good versus evil plot.

The best part of the book, though, are the character interactions that surround the plot. The characters are one-dimensional and cliched in places, but they're tons of fun. Czerneda has a good, light touch with romance between Sira and Jason, Rael and Barac are much less annoying than they started out as, and Huido is always a delight. Czerneda also introduces another waifish Clan, since Sira can't play that role any more, which brings back some of the appeal and dynamic of the first book but from a different direction. The resolution of that sub-plot was predictable (from the start of the series, in a way), but it still worked for me.

Pacing is better here than in Ties of Power. Things start happening right from the start of the book, and I was interested quickly. There were a few more problems towards the end of the book, but only minor ones. The chapters are also longer, making the book less fragmented. (I do find it amusing that each chapter not from Sira's perspective is titled "interlude," though, when much of the story happens there.)

This isn't the best-written series I've read, but it's fun light reading. Good space opera with memorable characters and some quite enjoyable aliens. This concluding volume isn't quite as good as the first book, but it's close. If you don't mind magic, telepathy, and romance in your space opera, I recommend the whole series.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2006-12-23

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21