Over three years have passed since the reappearance of the starship Phoenix — the same ship which two centuries before left an isolated colony of humans to fend for themselves on the world of the volatile atevi.
Since that time, humans have lived in exile on the island of Mosphiera, using a single diplomat, the paidhi, to trade advanced technology for the continued peace and safety of its people.
But the unexpected return of the Phoenix has shattered forever the fragile, carefully maintaned political balance of these two nearly incompatible races. For the captains of the Phoenix offer the atevi something the Mospheiran humans never could — access to the stars.
For three breakneck years the atevi labor to build a space shuttle which will bear their representatives to the Phoenix, to strengthen connections with their new human allies and retain their bid for control of their world. But as soon as the shuttle proves spaceworthy, the captains of the Phoenix suddenly recall their planetary delegates, breaking diplomatic contact and initiating a vicious bid for political dominance.
But the powerful head of the atevi’s Western Association is not to be outmaneuvered, and he sends his own paidhi, Bren Cameron, into space to negotiate.
Thrust into a political maelstrom with almost no preparation, Bren is empowered to use any means at his disposal to achieve the atevi’s aim. But can Bren gain control of the station and political supremacy for the atevi without sparking a three-sided interspecies war?
C. J. Cherryh (born 1942) is the pen name of Carolyn Janice Cherry, a multiple-award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer. She currently resides in Spokane County, Washington.
Cherryh is pronounced ”Cherry”. The author appended a silent ”h” to her real name because her first editor felt that ”Cherry” sounded too much like a romance writer.
The asteroid 77185 Cherryh has been named in her honour.