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Pretender: The second book of the third Foreigner sequence    by C. J. Cherryh order for
by C. J. Cherryh
Order:  USA  Can
Daw, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Pretender is the second in the third Foreigner sequence, making it the eighth in a series that's beginning to rival Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time for its longevity. But that's ok, as I love spending time with paidhi Bren Cameron, 'lord of the province of the Heavens', and his atevi companions. But if you haven't read the earlier episodes, do take them in first - they're well worth the read and the story makes more sense when told sequentially.

Whether in this Foreigner series, or others of her many works, like the Fortress books, Cherryh excels in protagonists alienated from those around them. Whether because they live amongst aliens like Bren Cameron, or are differentiated by dangerous powers as Tristen is in the Fortress series, these protagonists have to cope with an exaggeration of the loneliness of the human condition. In the case of paidhi Bren Cameron, who fought for 'atevi ownership of their own world', he has now adapted to the alien culture to the extent that he has a romantic relationship with his female bodyguard Jago, and paternal feelings towards Cajeiri, son and heir of the world's effective ruler, Tabini.

In the previous episode, Destroyer, Tabini's Western Association was overthrown (largely due to the technology acceleration that Cameron initiated), creating the potential for civil war. Bren, dowager Ilisidi, Cajeiri and their security forces returned from their space voyage to Mospheira, and then secretly to the mainland, where a hair-rasing series of adventures led to sanctuary with Cajeiri's Atageini great uncle Tatiseigi and a meeting with Tabini. As Pretender opens, Bren is still trying to readjust to planetary customs after shipboard life, while wondering about Tabini's plans and when the next attack will come. Then folk start flocking to Tabini's cause - from villagers to lords, including young nobleman Rejiri with his passion for airplanes.

As Bren begins to learn more about his own staff's involvement in the Assassin's Guild than he knew before, he's once again pulled into a mad cross-country dash (in which bullets fly and both Bren and Ilisidi play heroic roles) - by bus and train this time - with a world at stake. I've been hooked on the Foreigner series since book one and as always, can't wait for more.

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