Sharon Lee & Steve Miller: Conflict of Honors

He raised his glass to his lips. “And what brings you to apply for work on the Passage?”
“I don’t have any choice.”
The slanted brows pulled together. “Has Mr. Saunderson still got that impressment operation going? I did ask him to stop, Ms. Mendoza, I give you my word.”
For the third time in an hour Priscilla felt laughter rising. She drowned it in a swallow of wine. “I’m sorry—that was rude. What I meant to say was that I’ve been—dismissed—from my post on Daxflan. Yours is the only ship in at Jankalim now, so I’m applying here.”

There is this problem with the reading order of the Liaden series if you want to start with the original 1980s books. Agent of Change was the first, and its direct sequel is Carpe Diem, which was the third. The second book, Conflict of Honors, is a prequel to the two others and introduces characters that play a supporting role in Carpe Diem. The first time I read these books, I read them in publication order, leaving the cliffhanger at the end of Agent of Change unresolved for the duration of Conflict of Honors; it distracted me from this book and made it less enjoyable for me. Some people advise reading Conflict of Honors before Agent of Change, which certainly is a logical reading order, but I personally prefer to start with Agent. Therefore, I now skip Conflict of Honors entirely and come back to it at some later point in a rereading sequence. Like now.

Conflict of Honors is a good, leisurely introduction to the universe; I can easily see why some people recommend it as the book to start with. The principal character is Priscilla Delacroix y Mendoza, a Terran citizen. She being Terran, her attitudes and expectations are fairly familiar to the typical reader, that is, not particularly alien. She gets herself involved with Liadens, and particularly becomes entangled with Liaden balancing of accounts (a form of honor feuding), and thus, as she is educated about the Liaden culuture, we are, as well.

The book is, from another angle, a healing book. Priscilla starts as a young woman who has survived much abuse and is quite scarred because of it. She joins a ship whose crew is considerate and loving people, who show her the path to healing and to realizing her full potential.

A detail that I find adorable: big ships in the Liaden universe appear to carry pet libraries. That is, they carry animals which crew and passengers may lend out for a period of time. That is a concept one might want to see introduced into the real world.

“Do you really need a pet librarian?”
“Well, we didn’t have one,” he said, spinning the screen toward her. “So I guess we do. Palmprint here, please.”

Another joy of the book is the character of Shan yos’Galan. He is quite ridiculous but also sharp as a knife. And I find that I enjoy the portrayal of him given by narrator Andy Caploe, who I otherwise find unsatisfactory.

Conflict of Honors is in print as part of the Dragon Variation omnibus, which is also available as an ebook. There is a standalone audiobook.

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