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Destroyer    by C. J. Cherryh order for
by C. J. Cherryh
Order:  USA  Can
Daw, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is the seventh in Cherryh's compelling Foreigner series, following Defender and Explorer. In previous books, readers followed the adventures of paidhi Bren Cameron, the sole member of his race who lives among the atevi on a world where humans have been long marooned. Early misunderstandings led to war and the eventual agreement that human settlers restrict themselves to the island of Mospheira. Cameron's role has been to negotiate between aliens and Mospheirans and to oversee the gradual transfer of human technology to the less advanced atevi.

As the series developed, Cameron's job has been complicated by the addition of new groups to the mix - human ship crew, the secretive Pilot's Guild, and a new set of aliens, the Kyo, encountered in Explorer. Now, the starship Phoenix, captained by Sabin and Bren's friend Jase, has successfully completed its two year mission, rescued crew and colonists, and returned to Alpha Station. They look forward to fresh food, R&R, and a hero's welcome. But it's not to be. While they have been exploring, civil war has erupted amongst the atevi. Bren fears this is as a direct result of too fast modernization, undertaken under his direction. The Western Association has been overthrown, their leader Tabini is dead or in hiding. The return of his young son Cajeiri and his indomitable mother Ilisidi, along with the paidhi, could tip the balance in either direction.

Bren, Ilisidi, Cajeiri and their security forces take the remaining shuttle docked at the station down to Mospheira. This is followed by a secret boat trip to the mainland, which brings Bren closer to his brother Toby than he's managed in a long time. A hair-rasing series of adventures follows, including long cross-country rides on crotchety mecheiti, 'tall, rough-looking beasts, golden brown to sable, and possessed of two hand-span long tusks'. They make their way to the estate of Cajeiri's Atageini great uncle Tatiseigi, whose loyalties are questionable. This conservative old gentleman once had a relationship with Ilisidi, but has never liked the paidhi. They plot various strategies as enemies draw close, until an action of Cajeiri's takes control of events out of his elders' hands and puts them all at risk.

Destroyer is an exciting, action-packed beginning to a new trio of episodes in one of my preferred SF series. As it ends, our favorite characters are by no means out of the woods either on the planet's surface or on the space station above it ... and a new set of aliens is now aware of their existence. That leaves lots of room for more challenges for the paidhi (the ultimate envoy) to address, and more thrilling reading ahead for his fans.

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