RogerBW's Blog

Heights of Green, Lise MacTague 15 June 2021

2015 SF, second of a trilogy. Torrin has got her new love Jak back to Torrin's home world, but that isn't by any means going to be the end of their problems.

And this is a very different book from the trek across hostile country that made up much of the first volume. Back home, Torrin is not a lone smuggler but one of the partners in her homeworld's largest business enterprise, an offworld trading concern that somehow has to keep the existence of that homeworld entirely secret. (How's that again? There must be some really comprehensive faking of manifests going on. Not to mention that nobody ever thinks to point a telescope at this partly-terraformed "abandoned" world and look for signs of civilisation, like localised IR or city lights.)

But yeah, this universe is basically cinematic SF, the sort of environment where you can genuinely say that the asteroid field stops people from easily getting between the hyperspace entry point and the planet. Which would be frankly dull if this were a story about terraforming and spaceships and things, but they're background; much more than that it's a story about the people, Torrin making the transition back into her civilisation having been out on a long solo run, Jak being in a civilisation that sees women as people at all (in fact it's women-only), and both of them adapting to the idea of having a permanent partner (Torrin's been playing the field for years, while Jak's culture doesn't even admit that lesbians are a thing) and dealing with people's reactions to that. Both of them are trying to help the relationship to work without either the tools or the time to make it happen.

So all right there's a "This Isn't What It Looks Like" moment leading to a Big Misunderstanding, a thing I never really enjoy even if it's carefully set up to seem more or less plausible in this case, and an obvious evil person whose motives seem straightforward but might be something more. The narrative goes out of its way to keep Torrin and Jak from talking to each other, when that's clearly what they need to do. A resolution to just why Torrin was so badly briefed in the last book (being sent to negotiate an arms deal with a culture where women are property) is perhaps a little too pat, making the universe seem smaller. But there's also consideration of just what sort of job an expert sniper is fitted for in a military that's all about close-up shipboard engagements, and how the world will have to adapt to changing circumstances.

Middle volumes are traditionally lacklustre, but this one's an interesting change of pace while carrying on the themes from the first book. I'm impressed; I've read much worse from much bigger publishers and better-known authors.

(If you don't want to read the setup/teaser for book 3, skip the epilogue; this story is complete at that point.)

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Previous in series: Depths of Blue | Series: On Deception's Edge | Next in series: Vortex of Crimson

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