Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Betrayer" by C. J. Cherryh

Betrayer is the 12th in C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner series, a continuation of the story from Deceiver. (Yeah, I don't know what's up with these titles, either. I have no idea who the "betrayer" in this book is actually supposed to be.)

This isn't a standalone book, not at all. If you're not already a fan of the series, you need to start with Foreigner and read the whole series in order. This book is even less standalone than most, since it starts immediately where the previous left off, with Bren and his bodyguard already guests/captives of Machigi, lord of the Taisigin Marid.

Since you really can't read this book without already knowing what it's about, I'm going to skip all that. Read my review of Deceiver if you're curious about the series. (It really is one of the best.) I complained that the previous book stopped abruptly. Well, this one is just the continuation of that story.

At 328 pages, it's shorter than the other books, and it actually seems shorter than that. Really, not too much happens in this book. Much time is spent on a long trek across country, on foot, with Bren struggling with boredom, as well as fear. No, I wasn't struggling with boredom myself, not quite, but I did have to wonder what was up with that. Is Cherryh running out of new things to tell us?

Like the last few books, this one is split between Bren and Cajeiri, the young son of the atevi leader, and that alone has kept the series fresh. I've got to think that we've learned all we can about Bren and his associates. And while there are still new developments in atevi society - which is really quite a remarkable achievement - it's Cajeiri and the whole process of growing up atevi that's been most interesting recently.

That said, there's not too much new in that part of the book, either - some, certainly, but not much. If you look at Deceiver and Betrayer together, they make a very good story (and maybe I should add in Conspirator, since Cherryh seems to write this series in trilogies). But Betrayer by itself is a bit short of content.

I certainly can't complain about this series, and not even about the recent books, not really. But I have to wonder how much more Cherryh can tell us about her characters and her world. If she does intend to continue with the series - and I'm not so sure that she should - I'd suggest switching the focus entirely to Cajeiri.

And if she does that, she might move things along a little quicker. These last three books take place in a very short period of time. That means that Cajeiri doesn't get a chance to grow much older. Of course, we still get a good look at him from this snapshot. And he's at the age where he really is changing rather quickly

Hmm,... I'm not telling you much about this particular book, am I? Well, there's just not much to tell. You'll want to read it if you're a fan of the series, but that's mostly in order to conclude Deceiver. I was very pleased with that book, and so I was glad to see those events wrapped up in this one. But I can't say too much about Betrayer by itself, because it really doesn't stand by itself.

If you want to know the truth, I think Cherryh should have make Deceiver a little longer and concluded the story there. There really isn't enough happening here for a separate book, and it feels a little padded to make it long enough to be published separately.

The best thing I can say is that Cherryh hasn't run out of new things to tell us. After twelve books, that's really quite remarkable. Betrayer is a decent conclusion of the fourth Foreigner trilogy, but it is a conclusion, so nothing much new happens. On the other hand, it really doesn't feel like the conclusion of the series.

So I don't think you'll be blown away by Betrayer, or even consider it one of the more noteworthy books in the series. It's good, but I have this nagging feeling that it could have been better. And that's not what I expect from any book by C. J. Cherryh.

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