Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Meisha Merlin / 800 pages / February 2000

ISBN: 1892065010

Don’t panic when you see the number of pages, please; Partners In Necessity is an omnibus edition of Lee and Miller’s first three Liaden Universe novels. True, when the two-inch-think copy arrived, I was sneakily planning to read and review only the first book
of the three. By half-way through Conflict of Honors though, I had given up on that scheme; I was well and truly hooked. Now, my reaction is whose brainstorm was it to keep these grand adventures out of print for so many years?

If you, like me, were unaware of this series, you’ll appreciate a tiny peek at each of the three novels. (Then, you’ll be on the net, looking for the upcoming volumes.) Conflict of Honors is the chronologically first in the Liaden Universe, and presents to readers many of the characters they will encounter throughout the
series. Most importantly, it introduces Priscilla Delacroix y Mendoza and Captain Shan yos’Galan, who are thrust together when the captain and crew of her current ship strand Priscilla and set about making her life a living hell.

Priscilla is a powerful, yet very vulnerable, and appealing woman with secrets in her past and danger in her future. Her luck changes when she meets Shan. Shan is a wonderful character -– wry and sensitive, with his own version of justice. Obtaining a berth on Shan’s Dutiful Passage is the best thing that has ever happened to her or Shan. Ifthey survive this trade run, it could get even better. That’s a big “if.”

Hot on the heels of this engaging adventure, Agent of Change drops us into the lives of Val Con yos’Phelium (Shan’s young brother in Clan Korval) and the tiny fireball that we come to know as Miri Robertson. Both are trapped and outnumbered on a miserable planet where almost everyone wants to kill
them. Though it is an uneasy pairing, the two unite to escape both their enemies and that planet. Val Con is more a killing machine than a man. Miri is an impetuous and irrepressible, but no less lethal, burst of energy. During their struggles, they join up with my favourite characters in the books, the Clutch (try to think of the tortoise and the hare in one etiquette-driven society).

Don’t expect Val Con and his partner to be out of trouble for long. Carpe Diem finds them stranded on a technology-free world, where they can only hope someone will find them. (They really should be more specific
when they are hoping.) In the meantime, they settle into the bucolic community and try to prepare for a life there, just in case rescue doesn’t arrive, unaware that the universe is taking a nasty and dangerous turn. Someone wants Clan Korval out of the way.

Lee and Miller create a credible universe, intriguing characters, and the ride of your life in Partners In Necessity. Never, in all those pages, is there a dull moment. The exploits are too involving to stop for a break.

(And did I mention that Michael Herring’s cover is probably the most accurate portrayal of a story in years?)

But, even given the non-stop action, it is the authors’ teasingly slow unveiling of the characters that steals the book; you may never care about a cast of characters more or await their return with more anticipation.