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To Trade The Stars
by Julie Czerneda
Daw, $7.99, 479pp
Published: June 2002

This is the third story in Czerneda’s Clan Chronicles series. Click here for a review of the previous book, “Ties of Power”.

In this world, there are a myriad of sentient species who all enjoy interstellar travel and trade.  The primary focus of the story is on the interaction between Humans and the Clan – who look human but aren’t; personified by Siri, the most powerful of the Clan, and Jason Morgan, a unique telepathic Human.  The clan are reputed to be telepaths with strange powers.  They also look at Humans as something much less than themselves.  This arrogance comes from their firm belief that they – and they alone – are responsible for the creation of another dimension through which they travel.  This dimension, m’hir, allows them instantaneous transportation to any location they can image.  Although human telepaths do exist, their power is so weak that they cannot travel as the Clan does; thereby justifying the Clan’s worldview.  The Clan has engaged in selective breeding for generations which is now bringing their species’ demise.  Some of the clan believe the breeding should continue while others are beginning to see the catastrophic damage.  Siri had done considerable research in the first story, driving her to attempt a bold experiment with a human in an attempt to trigger her own reproductive process without actually ‘joining’ with the human.  The first story chronicles how that turned out – she lost her identity and felt in love with the human, Morgan. 

The second story introduced a strange race called the Drapsk who have a very pressing need for someone of Siri’s abilities to restore a missing piece of their culture. The trouble is cultural; the Drapsk are remarkably vague as to what, exactly, they need her to do.  This was complicated by a storyline about murders of telepaths caused by the very man who raised Morgan.  Morgan is torn by this news; the degree of betrayal he feels causes him to consider the problem to be his own.  He leaves Siri to pursue Symon; to stop him forever. The plotlines for both Symon and the Drapskii are left unresolved.

As the third story begins, one plotline introduces a young clanswoman from the renegade planet of Acranam, who chooses to hide-out with Morgan’s bloodbrother, the Carasian chef, Huido. This plotline involves the Clan’s interest in what happened to the rest of the children from Acranam plus a story involving Huido and his nephew.  Another plotline is Rael and Barac, Siri’s sister and cousin, as they attempt to complete the task Siri began:  restore Drapskii to the m’hir.  I remember the human cop, Bowman, had a part but it wasn’t a very strong part of the story and I don’t recall it was very significant.  Siri and Morgan are wandering around looking for Symon but get separated again. There is some confusion (on my part as the reader) where Siri has flashbacks to events involving her mother and the m’hir.  Siri ends up kidnapped by a Drapskii ship – but not her tribe – causing Morgan no end of panic and frustration.  It doesn’t feel like a true conflict within the story as the Drapskii are treated with affection and amusement by both Siri and the author.  But their goal is nothing less than to throw Siri into the m’hir as a sacrifice.  Meanwhile, Morgan has a confrontation with Symon that would probably feel less-than-satisfying on a big screen.  It isn’t the beat-down that the previous events, through two-and-half books, would justify.

This is intended to be epic.  But I am, more than a bit, underwhelmed.  The different storylines are interwoven in the pages but not in the overall story arc.  In other words, the stories of Huido and his nephew, Huido and the clanswoman, Bowman, and Symon are not dependent on each other and don’t contribute much to what I consider to be the main storyline:  Siri and Drapksii.  If they had a direct link to the events surrounding Siri, it could have been a much more satisfying story; but they didn’t.  Many of the events were completely unrelated.  The Morgan/Symon story was important as it affected Siri’s relationship with Morgan.  But it felt like Huido was thrown into the story for comic relief.  And I don’t even remember why Bowman was in this book at all.  Surprisingly, for me, the only truly satisfying conclusion was seeing Barac find love and companionship – again, unrelated to Siri. The resolution of the Drapskii story was interesting but too convoluted to be satisfying.

I was intrigued by concepts in the first book, and the characters carried me through the second book.  But the third?  Not really worth it for so many pages.  It was just too complicated and the plot wasn’t cohesive. 

I have committed myself to continuing my reviews of the next trilogy in this universe, so watch for my reviews of the whole series. ~~ Catherine Book

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