Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Subterranean Press, Eos/HarperCollins / 272 pages / May 2002

ISBN: 1931081549

Please, excuse the dust — Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are expanding the Liaden Universe and don’t want anyone to get hurt. Of course, some people are going to be dismayed when they don’t see Shan and Val Con and the other members of Clan Korval, but there is more than enough entertainment in Balance of Trade to keep readers interested — or maybe “glued” is a better word — to the action. Just as The Tomorrow Log introduced Gem ser Edreth, Balance of Trade brings us Jethri and a wide array of new characters, all to expand their already amazing universe.

Poor Jethri. Not wanted by the most powerful person on his family ship and now in deep trouble on the ground that he hates so much. He belongs to space, but whether he will ever escape being planet-bound seems less likely with every passing minute. Not to mention that his last moments may be coming sooner than he thought. Surrounded by the haughty and refined Liadens, he is a Terran in trouble. There are those who would like to see his buried under that dirt he so despises.

To reach the skies again and to keep his head on his shoulders, he must accept the “invitation” of a Liaden, leave his family and the Terran ways he is used to, and board Elthoria with his saviour Master ven’Deelin. Sometimes, he will wish he had died on that planet, seeing all that he must master to become a good Liaden. And he must stay ever alert to the trouble that follows him everywhere, just waiting for a chance to strike and hoping to lay hands on the Old Tech that has been passed down to him.

It’s another thrill ride for loyal Liaden fans and a great place for the uninitiated to jump on. You’ll have time to meet the scores of other characters later. And, believe me, you will want to meet these Liadens and Terrans and tag along on their adventures. Just one sampling of the Liaden Universe will hook you for life.

What it is about Lee and Miller’s series that makes it so irresistible? Maybe in a world where no one teaches their children take say excuse me or take off their hats indoors it is such a treat to see a place where manners actually matter. Maybe they matter too much sometimes, but there are ways around that. Very interesting ways they are, too. The Liadens manners may seem too complex and rigid at first, but, like all rules of etiquette, they are designed to allow people to live peaceably beside each other. No matter what there differences.

Then again, maybe it’s just that Sharon Lee and Steve Miller know how to write one blazing story. Luckily for us, they can keep the adventurer — and the romantic — inside each of us supplied. Royally.