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Betrayer    by C. J. Cherryh order for
by C. J. Cherryh
Order:  USA  Can
Daw, 2011 (2011)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Betrayer is the twelfth book (following Deceiver) in C. J. Cherryh's thoroughly engrossing Foreigner series, starring stranger in a strange land Bren Cameron, and his atevi associates.

Human colonists inhabit the island of Mospheira on the atevi world, ruled by Tabini. A brilliant diplomat, Bren is responsibile for the treaty transfer of human technology to the aliens, and works closely with their ruler. Through the series, atevi and Mospheirans have had to deal with surprising new contacts, each injecting new players into the game and putting the fragile human/atevi relationship at risk.

First the starship Phoenix (which originally abandoned humans on the planet) reappeared. Then a human/atevi space expedition made contact with Kyo aliens, who told them of another alien race (not yet met). The starship returned to find Tabini's Western Association overthrown. After he took back control, his young heir Cajeiri got himself - and others - into all kinds of trouble.

The eleventh episode, Deceiver, ended on a cliffhanger. After Bren's brother Toby was wounded on his Najida estate by rebels and Toby's lady Barb abducted, Tabini's grandmother Ilsidi sent Bren and his close associates (including his atevi lover Jago and her father Banichi, both professional bodyguards/Guild assassins) into the eye of the storm to negotiate with the chief rebel, Machigi of Taisigi clan, a young autocrat.

It seems that Machigi's rivals lords of the Marid have set him up for outlawry by the Guild, which might lead to war engulfing the continent. Bren offers Machigi options, with Ilsidi's backing. Then the young lord invokes an ancient role for Bren - as a mediator, representing Machigi's interests equally with Tabini's and Ilsidi's. While Bren comes to terms with this precarious position, attacks mount on his Najida estate, where young Cajeiri shows decisive bravery.

When Machigi's palace is also attacked, those inside are forced to flee, by bus and on foot, with enemy forces all around them. It's an exciting journey, ending with a surprise encounter. I love this series for its appealing alien and human leads, the author's brilliant rendering of an alien society, and for the tensions that regularly emerge from cultural dissonances. And Betrayer is one of the very best episodes so far.

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