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Balance of Trade: A Liaden Universe Novel    by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller order for
Balance of Trade
by Sharon Lee
Order:  USA  Can
Meisha Merlin, 2004 (2005)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Although set in the Liaden universe, Balance of Trade focuses on a young Terran trader named Jethri Gobelyn. When Jethri finds himself caught in a dishonest Terran's scam, he contacts the Liaden master trader whose card has been counterfeited. Liadens, with their intricate codes of honour, are dangerous to cross; and Jethri wants to set things right, not only to avoid offending, but also because he feels he should. Master Trader Norn ven'Deelin is impressed by Jethri's abilities and attitudes, and invites him to be apprenticed to her. That a Liaden would accept a Terran as apprentice is almost inconceivable.

Eager to learn, anxious to succeed, Jethri has already been studying Liad, its language and its customs. He finds that there is very much more to learn. Liaden society is governed by complex rules; most Liadens feel only scorn for Terra's sloppy ways. Jethri faces opposition from those contemptuous of Terrans while struggling to comprehend the complicated maze of Liaden trade rules and societal mores. There is also danger, for Master Trader ven'Deelin has enemies; and Jethri himself is unaware of the perilous legacy left to him by his dead father. As Jethri learns more and more about Liad, so will readers interested in Liad and its culture. They will also be cheering for a likeable and worthy protagonist.

Those familiar with the authors' delightful stories of Clan Korval (Local Custom, Scout's Progress, Conflict of Honors, Agent of Change, Carpe Diem, Plan B, and I Dare) should not be disappointed although Korval gets only a mention in this novel. Balance of Trade is more akin to a comedy of manners, and as such shines a light on Liaden culture. As always, the authors create engaging characters while spinning an engrossing tale.

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