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A Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume I by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Cover Artist: Stephen Hickman
Review by Gayle Surrette
Baen Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781451639230
Date: 02 July 2013 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Authors' Website / Show Official Info /

It's always nice to find a compendium of stories by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. Their short stories have been published in many small presses, chapbooks, and magazines, so finding the individual stories in a collection like this takes a lot of the hunting and seeking. In this volume, we have some early stand alone stories of Dav yos'Phelium, Er Thom yos'Galan, Moonhawk and Lute, as well as Val Con yos'Phelium, Shan yos'Galan, and Pricilla Mendoza among others.

The best thing about these short stories is that they fill in, for the reader, some of the background information on the characters we've come to enjoy through the author's novels.

I've grouped the stories by their main characters rather than list them in the order in which they appear in the book.

Dav yos'Phelium & Er Thom yos'Galan:

Pilot of Korval -+- Er Thom yos'Galan is having piloting problems. He's not actually been allowed to use a live boards. Dav yos'Phelium, now in scout academy, is on break and comes to visit Er Thom on-board Dutiful Passage -- and together, Dav and Er Thom manages to bring Er Thom's skills up to snuff.

A Choice of Weapons - Dav doesn't want to be Delm and begs his mother to find someone else. She's making peace with another clan, but the eldest son of that clan is not happy about it and causes a ruckus at a garden party in order to challenge Dav to a duel. This would put Koval in a dangerous situation rather than clearing the way for an alliance. Dav has a choice of weapons. His choice, and the result, may not be what he wanted but should be expected.

Breath's Duty - Dav yos'Phelium must leave his comfortable life as scholar Jen Sar Kiladi on Delgado and his mistress (mother of his daughter and a fellow scholar) and return to duty to help his son, Val Con yos'Phelium and his mate Meri Roberson. He has no choice when he learns Plan B is in effect. However, his way back to the clan is fraught with surprises.

Val Con yos'Phelium & Shan yos'Galan:

To Cut an Edge -- Val Con doesn't land where he expected to and decides to follow protocol anyway for a first contact. This is the story of how he meets Edger and becomes a brother to a turtle.

A Day at the Races - Val Con yos'Phelium and Shan yos'Galan team up for a race, using a cape for help in turning the corners, after Kareen yos'Phelium requested Val Con talk Shan out of racing before it destroyed the family's standing on Liad.

Moonhawk and Lute:

Where the Goddess Sends - Moonhawk and Lute meet for the first time. Imprisoned at the bottom of a well. How will they escape? What will they do?

A Spell for the Lost - Moonhawk and Lute, travelling together, are asked to find a lost girl. They quickly learn that the girl is dead but what should they do with that knowledge? Would the truth be cruel or kind?

The Wine of Memory - Moonhawk and Lute are travelling together and stop in a village to visit with friends of Lute. They learn that one has died and his wife is steeped in despair and grief. What can be done to help her cope with his loss?

Priscilla Delacroix Mendoza

A Matter of Dreams -- This story, along with "Moonphase", helps to explain how Priscilla Mendoza ended up banished from her home planet and declared dead. But it starts with a ship and crew hired for what was to be a simple job.

Moonphase - Priscilla Delacroix Mendoza is charged with heresy and imprisoned until her trial. Priscilla feels that she did the right thing but the powers that be feel differently.

Ren Zel dea'Judan:

Changeling - Ren Zel dea'Judan, Clan Obrelt, is a 1st class pilot from a clan of shopkeepers. He's injured in the crash of his contract wife's ship shortly after their marriage. Her clan (Jabun) holds him to blame. Shan yos'Galan had originally been the Master Pilot shown the tape of the crash, and had found the entire fault was with the wife, and that Ren Zel should be commended for minimizing the damage to those in the flight path. Her clan leader set aside his report and had his clan expel him (marking him as dead). How does Ren Zel survive and how is it that Shan yos'Galan finds him? This is that story.

Pat Rin yos'Phelium:

Certain Symmetry -- Shortly after the race in "A Day at the Races", Pat Rin finds himself with the task of dealing with Fal Den ter'Antold, Clan Imtal's Debt Book. Fal Den had killed himself and left his Debt Book to Pat Rin. This situation causes Pat Rin to have to solve some tricky situations for his departed friend.

Heirloom - Pat Rin has a bad dream and visits his foster father Luken bel'Tarda. He offers to classify some rugs to settle his mind. When a twelve-year-old Nova yos'Galan shows up to help Luken with the rugs, Pat Rin finds himself in a very troubling circumstance as Nova experiences her first instance of Remembering.

Miscellaneous:

Balance of Trade - Jethri Gobelyn is learning trade on Gobelyn's Market from his uncle. The ship needs refitting and Jethri is told he's being signed onto a ship, Gold Digger, that he doesn't want to go to. He's told if he can find his own berth, the captain (his mother) and his uncle will consider it. He's asked to run some errands on port. In the process he learns of a scam -- where a trader is using Norn ven'Deelin's name to defraud Terrans. Jethri has to decide if he wants to get involved in the affairs of Liadens. Will he act as his heart tells him to, or as he's been taught? And where will that choice lead him?

Phoenix - Cyra chel'Vona, Clan Nosko's face had been marked by the knife of her Delm and she'd been sentence to 12 years without support of clan or kin. She had ten years to go. She currently runs a small pawnshop in Low Port when she met a Terran artist, Bell, who suffers from manic-depressive problems and stays off his meds for his art. Bell has some connection to the Scouts and Jon dea'Cort was a sort of sponsor for him. When Bell gets in trouble, Cyra must decide what she's willing to sacrifice to save Bell.

Naratha's Shadow - Scouts had found an artifact that the Healer's wanted destroyed, but doubt that they can. Scout Montet sig'Norba checked all the historical documents and folk tales and found an astronomical location that just might lead to a place or people that might be able to deal with the artifact and it's up to her to take it there. What will she find?

Sweet Waters - a Scout (Slade) has crash landed on a planet and been taken in as part of the tribe of a hunter gatherer society. He can't physically compete, but he's good with traps, so manages to still bring in game as he lives with one of the female elders of the camp (a healer). He can only eat the food on the planet with the help of medicine from his ship and he's running low. And he can only stay with this tribe if he is chosen by a female -- if not chosen he must leave. Slade has to decide what to do?

This is a great collection for fans of the Liaden universe. But they are also a good way to interest readers who prefer to read shorter works.

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