Ties of Power

by Julie E. Czerneda

Cover image

Series: Trade Pact #2
Publisher: DAW
Copyright: October 1999
ISBN: 0-88677-850-6
Format: Mass market
Pages: 484

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This is the sequel to A Thousand Words for Stranger, and while the former stands by itself fairly well, you want to have read it before reading this book.

The story of Sira Morgan continues, although it takes a little while to get started (in part because the previous book tied up loose ends fairly well). Sira has turned her back on the Clan and is living in exile until Clan politics come to her, refusing to leave her alone. The beginning is slow and occasionally annoying as the characters wander about with little purpose and quite a lot of angst, but happily the story picks up well about halfway through and Czerneda produces a quite satisfying ending.

The best part of this book are the Drapsk, charming tribal aliens with fascinating body language and amusing reactions to Sira and Huido. This book is largely their story, returning to Sira's problems only near the end, and I found them quite delightful. They take the place, to a degree, of the naive but quite competent waif that Sira was in the previous book, although they're not particularly waif-like. Huido is, as before, wonderful as the huge, crab-like, cantankerous restaurant owner. While Czerneda doesn't always build her aliens with a great deal of depth or inhumanness, the sheer variety of them is quite fun.

The writing is a bit more polished this time, and you can tell that Czerneda has gotten better as an author. The unnecessary dramatics are pretty much gone, although I continue to be thrown by the capitalization of Human throughout the book. Unfortunately, this book is missing some of the charm of A Thousand Words for Stranger, partly out of necessity due to the changes in the heroine. I really did love Sira as waif as a character, and this version of Sira isn't as fascinating. The plot also didn't do as much for me, although those who dislike romance will be happy to hear that there's less here.

Pacing and perspective continue in the unusual vein of the first book, alternating chapters between Sira's first-person perspective and a tight third-person interlude. Here, though, most chapters only five pages long and some are as short as a couple of paragraphs. This worked for me, since I was reading the book in fits and spurts, but may be disconcerting for others.

This is fun space opera, not great literature, and doesn't have quite the polish of some other science fiction, but I still recommend it, particularly for lighter reading with a touch of romance.

Followed by To Trade the Stars.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2004-10-19

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