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Destroyer by C. J. Cherryh

Cover art by Michael Whelan

Published by DAW

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

In the latest installment of the series which she began with Foreigner, C. J. Cherryh returns the action to the atevi homeworld. After a lengthy voyage home, the mixed human-atevi starship crew bring tidings of peace with the mysterious alien kyo, and possibly even agreements to trade with them. However, Bren and the aiji-dowager Ilisidi soon discover that things are not at all well.

Far from it, the strains of rapid cultural change has pressed atevi society to the breaking point. The Western Association, the huge quasi-nation which holds sway over most of their world, has shattered as the ties of man'chi that hold it together have been strained to their breaking point. For atevi are not like humans, and the social glue that holds their society together is based upon ties of loyalty, not of affection.

Now the aiji Tabini is on the run and may even be dead. A new aiji of questionable background holds sway in the capital, an ateva whom Tabini had wanted to have assassinated but did not, solely to appease human sensibilities on the matter. Bren and the aiji-dowager must make a desperate trek across hostile territory, not even knowing if they have a goal to reach at the end.

This novel takes the reader ever deeper into atevi society, exploring the complex of interlocking associations which are the fundamental building blocks of this very alien culture. For the first time, we get to see how the ordinary atevi live and work, rather than only the uppermost echelons of the nobility. Furthermore, the presence of the rapidly-maturing heir Cajeiri offers glimpses into the way in which bonds of man'chi are created and associations are formed, when he obtains two followers as a result of a chance encounter.

Although the novel reaches a satisfying conclusion rather than merely a stopping point, it is still clearly the first of a new trilogy. One can only wonder where Cherryh will be taking this new story.

Review posted December 15, 2008

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