Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,
Rowyn
rowyn

Conflict of Honors, by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

This is another of the Liaden Universe books.  Chronologically, it takes place before Agent of Change (which was published before it) and after Local Custom and Scout's Progress. Genre-wise, it's a blend of sf-action/adventure and romance.

This was a fun book for me in several respects:

* It's a rare instance of bisexuality being treated as a complete non-issue.  There's a same-sex relationship between two women, both of whom are also noted as being attracted to men.  The relationship gets exactly the same sort of comments a heterosexual couple would get.

* Similarly, there's no presumption of monogamy.  One protagonist has a friends-with-benefits relationship with one character, while a more traditional romantic relationship haltingly develops with a second. There's some mention of jealousy but there's no "this is crazy, you can't do that" reaction from anyone.

* The PoV is flexible.  Modern novels are generally either 1st person, or 3rd person limited. "3rd person limited" means there are a few different viewpoint characters, and each scene will be clearly told from one and only one of those viewpoint characters.  Conflict of Honors tends towards the latter, but the narrative sometimes shows the thoughts of multiple different characters within a single scene, instead of sticking to one-and-only-one viewpoint character at a time.  Writing books will tell you this is Bad and confusing to the readers.  Writing books are frankly full of crap.  I am not an idiot.  It is no more confusing to have see character A's thoughts in one paragraph and character B's in the second than it is to have two different characters talking in the same scene.  Go full omniscient, Lee & Miller!  Rock on.

* The antagonists are hopelessly outclassed by the protagonists for the majority of the book. I found this kind of relaxing. Every now and then there'd be serious tension and concern from actions of one of the antagonists, but mostly I could enjoy watching the protagonists do stuff without worrying that Certain Doom was about to befall them.  This is another one of those things that writing advice will tell you not to do, but whatever.

* The protagonists inadvertently run into trouble with the law on a few occasions. Generally, the law sorts this out in a reasonable fashion without undue prejudice. This was weirdly refreshing; it seems like the law in fiction (police procedurals aside) is usually either a deus ex machina that requires no explanation, or a force for evil.

There were some elements I didn't like:

* The male protagonist, Shan yos'Galen, is ridiculously too good at everything.  This was true of the male protagonist in Agent of Change as well, but here it's taken to whole new levels of "absurd prodigy". Shan is a captain of his own ship, a Master Trader, a pilot, a lord, Heir Apparent the most powerful clan on his homeworld, a strong empath, and probably some other stuff I forgot.  It's excessive.  Also, he works too hard. So does every other character in this book. The literary world needs more lazy protagonists who work 9-5 and chill in the evenings. (I keep thinking of terrycloth's Era here ♥.)

* Okay, the antagonists are really a little too hopelessly outclassed.  As said earlier, I found it refreshing that the protagonists had no cloud of Certain Doom hovering over them at all times. But I think the antagonist could've been given more of a chance to pose a real threat.

* The characters tend to the two-dimensional.  Most everyone is either friendly and well-liked or villainous and wicked. I was fond of the good guys, but they could've used some humanizing faults, and not just flaws-that-are-really-virtues, like taking too much responsibility or feeling guilty about things that weren't your fault.

The last is the novel's greatest weakness. I enjoyed the book but spent too much time dissecting its weaknesses. I'll give it a 7 overall. It is worth noting, however, that this did not deter me from snapping up Lee & Miller's Mouse and Dragon as soon as I learned of its existence last night.  More about that book when I finish it!
Tags: book review, books, reviews
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