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Conflict of Honors    by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller order for
Conflict of Honors
by Sharon Lee
Order:  USA  Can
Ace, 2002 (1988)

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* * *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Authors really do throw their protagonists into a morass of ill fortune. Priscilla Delacroix y Mendoza has rebuilt her life after the cruelest penalty that her people could inflict (she was declared dead, outcast by her family and the temple she served). Barely more than a child, she worked her way off-world and found a berth on Daxflan, after painstakingly working up to a position of responsibility. Daxflan is not a happy ship; and when cargo master Priscilla, in all innocence, points out a discrepancy in the loading papers, she finds herself knocked unconscious and left behind on a remote planet. To add insult to injury, her earrings, one of her precious few souvenirs from her previous life, have been ripped from her ears; and she herself is accused of theft, an accusation that would bar her working on any spaceship.

Priscilla is fortunate in finding herself on Dutiful Passage. Captain Shan yos'Galan has a Liaden name, but he himself is as far from one of those beautiful, meticulous, elegant people as one can imagine. Certainly he is meticulous and elegant, and both proper and courteous in the treatment of his people (unlike her previous captain). He is also over-tall for a Liaden, larger and not particularly beautiful. Still, Priscilla cares not at all. The captain is willing to believe she is telling the truth, and he is offering her a job (although what a 'pet librarian' does is a mystery to her). Priscilla ends up playing with the exotic and cuddly animals in the pet library, making herself useful as the captain directs, and studying for her pilot's license in her considerable free time. The last is an order that stuns her. On Daxflan she had virtually no free time, and all her studying had to be done on her own time.

Shan has his own score to settle with Daxflan's captain. Chelsa yo'Vaade has insulted Dutiful Passage as well as Shan personally; and according to the wonderfully complex, intricate codes of Liad, Shan owes him 'balance'. Balance is a concept that incorporates honour and appropriate return; it is not mere vulgar revenge. As he comes to know Priscilla, Shan suggests to her that their interests coincide, And so it is that Priscilla gains a formidable ally. Conflict of Honors presents a vivid cast of characters (Shan is irresistible) with absorbing goals and challenges, set against a cultural tapestry that has its own logic and principles, different enough from ours that the reader is kept on his/her toes. The authors offer up a delicious mix of adventure, romance, and humour. Have fun reading it; I certainly did!

Note: Although third chronologically in the Liaden series, Conflict of Honors was the first published. Shan's parents' story is told in Local Custom, his uncle's romance in Scout's Progress.

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