Star-trading Clan Korval - known to Terrans as the Tree-and-Dragon Family and to the locals simply as the Dragon - has been convicted of crimes against the homeworld. No matter that one of the "crimes" consisted of saving the elitist planet of Liad from very real internal threats, the Council of Clans wanted Korval heads to roll. Unfortunately for the council, the Dragon's allies conspired to impose a milder punishment for saving the world: banishment rather than execution.
Now relocated to the free-for-all world of Surebleak, the Dragon is under contract to keep the Port Road open to all traffic and to back the New Bosses in imposing law and order on a society originally based on larceny and assassination. This modest rustication is going surprisingly well until Korval discovers that the enemy they'd sought to destroy wasn't quite destroyed. And is more determined than ever to eradicate Korval.
While the banishment killed no one initially, many of Korval's trading allies are spooked. Some are reneging on ancient agreements, leaving the Dragon to make its own way. The clan's efforts to stealthily recruit new allies is going haywire, and a secret death toll is rising even as the clan's adherents endure increasing exposure to danger and deceit off world.
To make matters worse, an active portion of Surebleak's native population liked the Old Ways just fine and are conspiring to take the New Bosses - and the Dragon - down and are sure they have the firepower and people to do it.
The exiled Dragon has to make an urgent choice: accept an alliance with criminals or face down each and every enemy in person, one by one.
©2015 Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (P)2015 Audible, Inc.
"[S]prawling and satisfying.... Space opera mixes with social engineering, influenced by Regency-era manners and delicate notions of honor.... [I]t's like spending time with old friends...." (Publishers Weekly)
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"Korval on Surebleak, many story lines progress"
Dragon in Exile continues the story of Clan Korval on their new home of the planet Surebleak. Almost all the various storylines progress in this book with the exception of Theo Waitley and Bechemo, who appear, but where we don't get a lot that moves their story forward. This is an excellent addition to the Liaden Universe from Sharon Lee and Steve Miller and the story is highly recommended. The narration from Stephen T. Collins is not his best. He still seems to be struggling with his sense of pace and narrative volume, though it's certainly better than his last Liaden reading, Trade Secret. I'm disappointed in Mr. Collins, because I know he can do better.
But please, don't let that minor complaint slow you down. This is an excellent addition to the Liaden Universe and highly recommended.
"Is there a plot?"
I'm a huge fan of Lee and Miller. I've even bought Audible editions of books that I've read. This is the first book of theirs that I've been disappointed in. There doesn't seem to be any plot arc. Problems pop up but are quickly dealt with. There doesn't seem to be a main character in the book. It pops back and forth between too many people to offer any continuity.
I'm totally disappointed in Mr. Collins as a reader, which is a shame because, with the right book, I think he could be very good. The problem is with his handling of the Liaden characters. Since Liaden speech is quite formal, I can understand his choice of using an upper class British accent for those characters. The idea is fine. The execution falls way short.
First, the accent isn't that good. It might be good enough to carry one character but not the numbers involved here. He has only one accent pattern. He does manage to distinguish the voices by tone and speed, but the inflection stays the same between characters. And, that's not the worse part.
He seems unable to both maintain the accent and carry the delicious subtlety of speach that I've come to love from most members of Clan Korval. The biggest shame comes when rendering Val Con. The exquisite, self-deprecating humor and irony I expect from Val Con has been brutally smothered. He comes across as a tedious stuffed shirt, but not as much as does Pat Rin, who sounds like the most pompous bore imaginable. Come on, this is Boss Conrad, who clawed his way up through the cesspool of humorless. Mannered is one thing. Snooty beyond bearing is another.
If you need a Liaden fix, this is just sufficient. If you are new to Lee and Miller's work, please don't start here
Narration is annoying, and that's surprising, because Kevin T Collins did a superb job narrating the first two books in this series. It improves (somewhat) after an hour or two, as Collins gets into the story, but several Korval clan members sound pompous and high brow, very different from how they sound in prequels! Some words are pronounced differently than in prequels (Yxtrang especially stuck out). Phrasing is choppy. Too many ordinary words got emphasized, making for a confusing listen. I could not listen attentively for long, due to these performance problems.
As for the story, it was quite good, with some minor quibbles: The pace felt meandering (a minor quibble, as mostly I was fine with simply immersing myself in familiar characters and seeing slices of their lives. But it began to feel like this plot was going nowhere — yet the plot did make some progress, as the authors began weaving bright new threads into the tapestry, to be continued in the sequels). Also, there was a fair amount of "telling" at first, reminding readers of what went down in prequels. In addition, the POV hopped around a bit. In the midst of one scene, we would suddenly shift to another scene. I don't care for that, but this leapfrogging effect was not as unsettling as in some prequels. Finally, I'm not crazy about what's going on with Quin and Villy (but then again — what is going on with them?).
Below, no major spoilers. Just big ideas about the story, with characters featured and intersecting prequels.
Dragon in Exile is set on Surebleak, some weeks after the conclusion of Dragon Ship. I've taken quite an interest in this revitalized planet and was happy to revisit it. However, I did hope to jump offworld once or twice, to see what's new with Theo and Bechimo. (Maybe next time!) I enjoyed watching Surebleak take shape, as various citizens (aka 'Bleakers) faced syndicate thugs, but I was a little surprised — given the prequels — that the insurance threat continued so long, and burned so hotly.
No Clutch Turtles in this book, but Korval's neighbor Yulie Shaper, the introverted farming sniper who loves cats, gets plenty of action. Whoot! He's a favorite with me, and the authors have blessed him with a multi-textured character, beginning with his introduction in the duology Halfling Moon, in the short story Moon on the Hills (also published in A Liaden Universe® Constellation: Volume Two).
We see a lot of the Bedel people (see Necessity's Child) and especially former agent of change Rys Lin pen' Chela and old Silain (aka the Luthia, healer, grandmother, sage). She reveals a hidden ability.
Rys "dreams" about the captured agents of change. More than dreams! Intriguing, spinning a new plot thread for sequels! Anthora and Ren Zel play a role. (His behavior got weird. Nebulous stuff going on in the firmament. Meh.)
One of my favorite characters is young Syl Vor (loved him in Necessity's Child) and happily for me he played a key role in a vivid scene. Also, we learn a bit more about his special gifts. Plus, we see Mike Golden and Nova and Beck.
Some fabulous scenes with Tree. A darkly funny scene reminiscent of when Tree threatened Daav's fiancée in Scout's Progress. There's also a sweet dreamy scene under Tree.
This book features several scenes with Lucan bel Tarda, Quin's grandfather. This gentle man shrewdly weaves a fine balance for the treacherous delm of Clan Hedrede, the Liaden council member who gunned for Korval's banishment.
Enjoyed the scenes with Quin, Villy, and the sightseers from the cruise ship.
I'm always delighted to see Nelirikk the Explorer (aka "Beautiful") and Diglon the Rifle. Good stuff! (When did Diglon get married to Alara? Did it occur in the digital Splinter publication, The Rifle's First Wife?)
Surprising scenes with Hazenthull and her security partner Tolly Jones — an interesting new character. An interesting new plot thread!
In the "intervals" between chapters we get some long-awaited scenes. All hush hush.
There's a new child in this book. Won't say more, but Tocohl was not expected. Haha! Too much fun! (Speaking of children, Lizzie babbles away in a few scenes, too.)
In prequels, I resented the pages wasted on Kamele Waitley, but in this book, she fit in. She played an integrated role.
Shan and Priscilla didn't feature in this book, except as mentioned by others. They are offworld.
I loved the concluding scenes. Perfect!
Ps. The authors posted a short story online at Baen Books, embellishing this book. Go to Baen dot com and look up Chimera.
"The Clan Korval on Sure Bleak story continues"
Readers who have been waiting for new installments in the Liaden universe will be pleased to revisit several of their favorite characters. Almost everybody from previous books makes an appearance or gets a mention in this book. So my only quibble with the book is that it covers so many story lines that some of them don't get as much attention as the listener might want. The plot is rather a stew of many ingredients.
A note to new readers: This book is heavily dependent on previous history in at least 3 other books; it is not the book to pick up without previous reading. I think new readers should start with "I Dare", at least to follow this plot sequence, but check out the authors' online resources to verify that. There is a lot of back story concerning the many (more than ten) main characters mentioned in this installment. Even readers of previous books might want to review previous books, to remember who is who.
As for the performance: it is painful to listen to. The performer spends the first 3 hours in William Shatner mode. He eventually tones it down it a bit, but the character voices are all over the place and he changes the pronunciation of some names. He reads most of the Liadens as if they were 19th century English gentry. Worse, he reads Pat Rin as if he were a character out of Dickens. I like Pat Rin but his dialog is unbearable. Then the performer reads the lower class SureBleak characters as if they were either out of a western or Chicago mobsters.
voices were awful and hard to follow. compared to the past narrator of the series, it was just awful and despite a real love of this author I could not finish it.
"A Tid Bit To Keep You Going"
The Dragon in Exile story itself is more of a bridging filler between the past and what's coming. I enjoyed it - but it wasn't a filling a repast as other stories have been. I still enjoyed the story but would not rank it as high as the earlier books in the series.
Unfortunately, I found the narrator to be a real distraction. Often I found the voice impression of the characters completely different from earlier volumes in the series and very different from how I imagined they would sound. The light and subtle humor did not come through at all for me. Sometimes I felt his readings reflected more a stock characterization than one tailored to the particular character. For example, his reading of Luken bel'Tarda sounds more like some dispetic banker from a1930's era movie.
I doubt that I will purchase any further audio books in the Liaden series if Mr. Collins is the reader. A real shame.
Voice characterizations involve a lot of subjective judgement, of course, so others might not find the same difficulty with Mr. Collins that I did and should at least try the sample reading before making a decision.
"my favourite story in the series"
Would only recommend to a devoted liaden fan as the story is completely spoiled by the narration
Any of the narrators who have done other books in the Liaden series would have been better. See below
Definitely. There are so many ways that Lee and Miller can take up the action and have fun with our favourite characters in the Liaden series that it would be plain silly of them not to enjoy themselves and at the same time give us more good Liaden stories.
the narration in this story comes over as very pompous. The young Quin his father Patrin and grandfather Luken all sound much alike and very stuffy. It is very hard to distinguish between any of the male Liaden characters as they all have the same deadly pontificating style. Even Val Con sounds about a hundred and totally unlike his irreverent, iconoclastic self. I didn't mind Mr Collins narration of the prequels but felt his handling of characters we have met via other narrators was poorly done.
"I found 2 books years ago and loved them"
After reading two books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller years ago, searched for more of the Liaden Universe series but could not find them. I would type the authors names on the internet from time to time hoping for the books to be on offer. Years later Audible offered the entire Liaden Universe series and I bought them all. I have watched for the next installment, and bought it as soon as it was available. I found the narration to be deliberate and formal. I enjoyed the book but the narration distracted from the story. I love the series so I want to keep it in my library.
"Worst narration ever?"
I thought the narration of Agent of Change was bad. Then I listened to this.
I've been going through the series chronologically, starting with Agent of Change, and on the whole I've enjoyed the series very much. Once I grew accustomed to Lee and Miller wandering through the plot and focusing more on characters and less on action, I was good with it. The authors do what they do very well, and I've enjoyed the trip so far. I bought the audio narration for the books as well as the Kindle versions so that I can listen when I can't read.
Well. That has proven to be a mixed blessing with this series. The women narrators have been competent, if not at the Kellgren level of awesome. The men, though. The narrator of Agent and the following couple of books was slow (I had to speed up the narration, or I'd still be listening to it) , and his sometimes unfortunate choice of accents (Brooklynese? Really?) was off-putting. Still, I persevered.
This guy Collins though. Every time I try to listen to this book, I can only take about 5 minutes of him, and I want to do incapacitating violence to my phone or tablet. Every sentence is portentous. All Liaden accents come across as poor imitations of Received Pronunciation, as if each and every Liaden speaker failed an audition for the BBC. The kompani characters have some weird Eastern European/Romani thing going on. He's too slow at 1x speed, and too fast at 1.25. He seems to know only one dynamic: loud. I don't know if he's done work outside this series, and I never want to find out. I hate this narration so much that it takes me right out of the story, and I have to go back and read what I listen to again to see what I missed. That's a bad thing.
I don't know who is choosing narrators for this series, but they need to pay more attention. That's essential for an audiobook. I have in the past chosen books on the narrator (Kellgren or Guidal, for example) if I wanted to take a chance on a new author. Had I listened to this series, especially this book, before reading it, the book would have gone on my Too Bad To Finish list, and I wouldn't be 11 books into the series. That would be sad, because this is an enjoyable series.
"pronunciation errors of both words and names mar"
I found both errors almost as jarring as the characterization for many characters to be unpleasant in the extreme. This reader's performance of Chrystal Soldier leaving me to wonder what caused the unpleasant characterization and mis-pronounced common English words.
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