Conflict of Honors by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
I love fun space opera…
After watching the funeral of a loved friend, Priscilla Mendoza leaves the planet and family who abandoned her. She takes work on a Liaden freight space ship, Daxflan, as cargo master. Part way through the trip, she realizes the ship has illegal drugs in its cargo. She is certain the Trade Master and the ship’s captain are aware. As cargo master, she could get into a lot of trouble. She files and locks personal notes about the illegal cargo and says nothing. But someone discovers she knows more than she should. At the next port of call she is beaten, robbed, and left behind with nothing except her filthy clothes, a few personal belongings, and her word.
Another Liaden ship is orbiting Jankalim. Priscilla applies for employment with them, willing to take any open position they may have. She learns they have a full crew complement, but Captain Shan yos’Galan is unusual. He listens to her story, asks some questions about her work and personal life, talks with her some more, then offers her a position as a pet librarian. Priscilla is startled. She had grown more pessimistic during the interview and knew she would be sent back to the planet. Instead this odd captain creates a new position and hires her.
Priscilla soon learns that the Dutiful Passage is nothing like the last Liaden ship she was on. The crew is open, friendly. No one tries to compromise her sexually or ethically. The pay is better. While her title is Pet Librarian, she is expected to take piloting lessons, learn how trade is handled, and learn the administration duties of an officer on the ship. She is wary but remains open to the possibilities. She seems to have the personal backing of Captain yos’Galan himself.
Unfortunately, the Dutiful Passage is on the same route as the Daxflan. The falsified records from the Daxflan claim Priscilla is a thief who jumped ship. At the next port of call, she runs into the second mate who beat her and left her behind from the previous ship. The woman threatens and starts a fight with her. She has a shipmate with her who contacts the Captain. He, in turn, is able to rescue her from the authorities. This continues in other ports. Fortunately, her new friends and Captain yos’Galan believe her rather than the reports. Somehow Priscilla becomes a valued member of the Dutiful Passage. Now she has to solve the problems the Daxflan crew keep causing her.
During the 1980’s I was busy raising children, working, and going to school. My pleasure reading was minimal and I missed a lot. That includes the Liaden Universe that Sharon Lee and Steve Miller created. I recently came across a sale for the first two in the series. Conflict of Honors is the second book that was published in the series. Once I finish the Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster Bujold, I’ll have to come back and read through the rest of the Liaden Universe.
Conflict of Honors is adventure and romance. There is conflict and confusion. It’s a rollicking story that sweeps the reader along. It’s easy to identify with the characters, from Priscilla to Shan to the retiring First Mate to the boy who is the ship’s gopher. Lee and Miller don’t write high literature, but instead fun escape. At the same time, there are underlying themes that can be seen, especially the reasons for huge sacrifice.
For an entertaining, lively bit of escape, check out Conflict of Honors.