It is high praise for C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series that when I received notice that my copy of Betrayer had landed at the SF bookshop I went to town after dinner to get it, arriving 15 minutes prior to the shop’s closing time.
Despite some problems with continuity, like certain populations varying in size (and with no small numbers, either), or with proof-reading the richness of the world, the step by step discovery and understanding of a very different culture, and the character interplay drags the reader into it, book by book, making it a personal experience.
Did this latest instalment live up to expectations?
My first reaction was “it’s so THIN”. So few pages… and the cover is not that well executed; it feels as it was done in great haste. But what counts is between the covers, so I dove into it, closing my eyes to the visual representation on the outside.
At first it was slow going. Not because I couldn’t read but because nothing much happened, storywise.
One of the things I liked with Deceiver was it was full throttle from the very start. Betrayer is a return to the older format were the first third to half is dedicated to reiteration of what happened earlier and to build-up. This builds tension, and ensures the reader remember the pertinent parts when things go sticky, so fills a purpose, but to someone like me, who have read the previous instalments a number of times, it’s a wee (very wee!) bit boring. The world in itself, and the renewed acquaintance with the people, makes it less so, though. And soon enough the pace quickens, which is reward enough.
The story itself, then. WARNING! SPOILER ALERT!!!
A handful of pages in quiet Algini reveals the existence of a rift within the Assassins’ Guild with a splinter faction trying to wreak havoc in the aishidi’tat – a reaction to the transformations to the atevi culture and economy (and political power) in the aftermath of the return of the Phoenix 13(?) years earlier. The renegade faction has manoeuvred to use Machigi and his ambitions on the Western coast as their smokescreen, making him the focus of the aishidi’tat, but with Bren’s, and then the dowager’s, arrival in Najida and then Bren’s arrival in Tanaja, their hand is forced.
Neither the dowager nor Bren had any idea this renegade faction existed and neither had they any idea the legitimate Guild had worked long on exposing and handling these renegades. They thought what happened (in Conspirator and Deceiver) was a plot amongst local lords, the infighting normal to the Marid area, and both finds themselves in over their ears.
When the dust settles and the book is over my main urge, despite putting another and very interesting read on hold, to go back and reread all of this fourth story arc.
Definitely not a book to start this series with, and perhaps not the strongest instalment either, but definitely a worthy episode for us who need our shot of Foreigner Universe every now and then.