Originally posted in my meta/review blog 06/01/10
The direct sequel to Conspirator finds Bren Cameron in the middle of a political situation instigated by the nephew of Lord Geigi, a colleague and associate. Said political situation has created a massive problem between the still present factions that tried to stage a coup against Tabini and the Edi, an ethnic minority that has been trying to get its own representation within the aishidi’tat for centuries. That the political situation would have resulted in the nephew’s death is, at the opening of the novel, not understood by the nephew himself, much to the annoyance of all those present. Thanks to the nephew in question, a vacation intended to keep Bren out of the political spotlight for a while, has once again thrust him into action. Also on hand is the extremely precocious Cajeiri (who is two months shy of the felicitous age of nine) and the very formidable aiji-dowager Ilsidi, and Bren’s brother Toby and Toby’s girlfriend (and Bren’s former squeeze) Barb.
Adding to the fun and games, Tabini turns up briefly to find out what the heck his grandmother and his paidhi-aiji are up to. There’s some expositional arguing about the situation, and after Tabini has a talk with his son, he opts to leave again with the parting shot that Cajeiri is most likely going to become a big brother. Cajeiri does not greet this information with enthusiasm, but as a challenge. Cajeiri has NO INTENTION of sharing “his” great grandmother or “his” extremely unofficial tutor/foster parent/ mentor with his future little brother or sister. He also gets another pair of bodyguards, both older (but still young) full Assassin’s Guild members who turn out to be somewhat cocky and extremely reckless. ( Pro tip: if an extremely mischievous not quite nine year old child can point out exactly where you are screwing up…and is RIGHT about it, chances are good you are in the wrong. Especially if you’ve also managed to piss off senior security teams while you were screwing up.)
After assurances of manchi (loyalty, kind of, except in the way that it’s not that at all–don’t you love terms that can’t be defined in human terms?) are made, Tabini leaves, with Cajeiri still in the care of Ilisidi and Bren. There is a definite feeling that Tabini is leaving the situation in Bren’s hands, while testing Cajeiri’s ability to stay out of trouble. (Which he’s actually surprisingly good at when he isn’t getting into trouble in the first place. The kid is about ten million times worse than Tom Sawyer plus any other child mastermind you can think of, honestly.) Barb and Toby meanwhile get moved out of their guest room so that Lord Geigi has a place to stay since his estate has been shot up and is definitely not safe.
This is another fast paced though “transitional” book. There’s a lot of detail and a lot going on with the various plot threads, but there’s no resolution to many of the problems, and it ends in a cliff hanger of sorts. I like this particular sequence a bit more than I liked the previous one, which I felt was a little too transitional. I am also still feeling a great deal of antipathy for Barb, though her scenes are mercifully brief and we don’t see reiteration umpty-million of “Oh I love you Bren why won’t you go out with me even though I’m a whiny twit and also currently involved with your brother!” Poor Toby spends a lot of the book laid up in a sick bed due to being shot, much to the chagrin of Cajeiri (because it had happened while Toby had been looking for Cajeiri, while under the impression that the kid had gone wandering off again).