The story of this 10th Foreigner book begins with spring in Shejidan and an unwelcome letter, forcing the paidhi’s household to withdraw to the seldom visited coastal estate. Only a few months have passed since the events of the previous volume, Deliverer, and though things are seemingly normal the aishidi’tat has not yet settled itself.
Where previous volumes have sometimes tended to include a lot of retelling earlier happenings Conspirator does not, which is good. Instead names and events are dropped and referenced to obliquely, and either you remember the incident referred to or not. As you’re not going to get much out of the story without prior knowledge of the series anyway this is welcome.
The back side of this is most characters are more sketchily drawn than we are used to – focus here is on story, on goings-on, and development of characters clearly takes back seat. No one acts out of character, though, and so it’s not very disturbing. But we also get very little of personal moments, like the one in Pretender (I think) when Algini at one profound moment addresses Bren with “aiji-ma”.
Warning! Spoiler ahead!
What does happen, though, is that when the book ends Bren finds himself with an unexpected personal attachment to a region and a people not bent on trusting the Ragi aiji, and possibly with the prospect of having to back a proposal that’s not going to sit easy with the traditional centre of the Association.
End of spoiler.
Despite (or because of!) this it’s a promising start to the (infelicitous) fourth story arc. After reading the book I’m still walking around with the smile of a madman that appeared on my face the moment I got message from the SF Bookshop advising me my copy had arrived :D
Anyone not having read this series should consider doing it – it’s very good, even if it’s decidedly more “feel good” than, for example, the Alliance/Union books (which I also very much appreciate). A note though – when reading book #1 it will take some time before the real story gets going. But it’s worth waiting for! ;-)
EDIT! Sometime later I added some new thoughts, as I began to think I wasn’t spot on in this review. The new text is here – Rereview: Cherryh’s Conspirator, again.