As with many, this is the book through which I first encountered Julie Czerneda’s writing, and now the start of the middle act of her trilogy of trilogies. Re-reading them now in chronological order, I’ve been very pleased to find I liked the prequel trilogy more than I recalled. It’s disappointing but perhaps not surprising that the converse is somewhat true for this first book. It has a lot of strengths, but its flaws are now more clear, and I’m spotting it part of a star for its initial impact. It’s still quite a good book, though, and I’ve not been sorry that it started me following Czerneda’s career.
I was surprised to find just how much of the M’hiray mythology is set out or hinted at in this first book. I don’t know whether Czerneda had it all planned out, or just faithfully followed her own trail. However, in some ways, this book really works better as a sequel, and I’m glad I decided to re-read the full saga in this order. It is, sadly, undermined by Czernada’s fumble of a transition between the Stratification trilogy (via an unsatisfying epilogue novelette in the last book) and this Trade Pact trilogy. That squandered a lot of what she had so carefully built up, and it’s tough to patch over what should have been a smooth bridge, even as relatives of some key characters turn up.
The book starts very well, but bogs down in its last third, rushing frenetically by one idea after another without making much progress. The end is rushed as well, and there’re quite a few threads left dangling. When I first read this, though, I was so taken with the novelty of the concept that I didn’t mind it, finding it more intriguing than frustrating. Either way, it’s still a good introduction to Czerneda. A fast paced, fun, romantic adventure.
NB: while I used the image for the 10th anniversary edition, which I own, I actually re-read the original paperback.