This is the third book in Hogarth's Her Instruments trilogy. If you haven't read Earthrise or Rose Point yet, don't read this book.
This is a tough one to review. I like Hogarth's writings best when her “family” groups are together, and, unfortunately, the Her Instruments group was split up for most of this book. I was all set to say that this was an okay read that got better as the action picked up, and then the Earthrise “family” was reunited, the ending happened, and it was perfect.
Laisrathera starts a while after the end of Rose Point. Hirianthial has mostly healed up and is upset that Reese was left behind on his home world. The Alliance has agreed to help the Eldritch against their pirate and Chatcaavan invaders, but they're embroiled in their own battles and so the resources they can provide are limited. Meanwhile, Reese and Irine are doing what they can to oppose Baniel, his Chatcaavan ally, and Surela, Queen Liolesa's usurper, not knowing when Liolesa and Hirianthial will manage to bring reinforcements.
I have to be honest, the first third or so of this book was a slog for me. It felt like the characters were doing nothing but talking, planning, and debating. Yes, okay, so they were all in a tough situation with limited resources, and they had some difficult decisions to make, but it was kind of boring and I wanted them to finally do something.
Hirianthial's storyline picked up bit when he, Sascha, and Bryer joined the crew of the scout ship. That was the moment when I first realized that a big part of what I missed was the Earthrise “family." Solysyrril, Tomas, Narain, Lune, and Jasper were a tight-knit group that had been together almost ten years and felt like it.
What kept me going during Reese and Irine's storyline was Val. I loved him. He was a breath of fresh air: more informal than most Eldritch, irreverent, funny, and comfortable in his own skin. Hogarth surprised me by actually making me wonder if there was a chance he and Irine might end up together (An Eldritch and a Harat-Shar? Shocking!). And did I just imagine it, or was there really a moment where Irine thought Val and Belinor might make a good couple? I couldn't help but laugh at the thought that Irine might be shipping Val and Belinor while I was off shipping her and Val.
I was disappointed that Reese got to do so little in this book, but, at the same time, I liked that she was finally forced to think about how she'd behaved over the years and what she wanted to start doing differently if she survived. True, she'd stopped snapping at Hirianthial as far back as Rose Point, but in this book she examined the reasons behind her change. I kind of wish some of that had been more apparent back in Rose Point, because it might have made the shift in her behavior less jarring.
When Reese and Hirianthial were finally reunited, Reese knew what she wanted to say and do – no more beating around the bush. The romance fan in me cheered, and then Hirianthial reminded both Reese and me that, oh yeah, Baniel and the Chatcaavan still needed to be dealt with. Whoops! But there was time for more later on, and it was great.
The ending somehow managed to be incredibly satisfying while still leaving some things open. I want to know more about what happens to Surela, whether a couple Eldritch I liked ever end up with anybody, and how Reese, Hirianthial, Sascha, Irine and the rest are doing a few years down the line. Those are more the kind of “wants” that happen when characters feel alive than the “wants” that happen when something feels unfinished, however. The trilogy itself was wrapped up excellently, and brought back some of the “alien culture” stuff that I love about Hogarth's writings.
I loved that Hirianthial talking about his first wife led to an explanation about various levels of formality in Eldritch names and wasn't the jarring awkwardness it could have been. I loved that Hirianthial's gift for Reese recalled thoughts and feelings she'd had as early as the first book in the trilogy. I had to fight back the happy tears so that I could keep reading, the ending was so nice.
I think that, on the whole, I prefer Hogarth's Dreamhealers duology to the Her Instruments trilogy. Also, Rose Point is probably a better book, overall, than Laisrathera. But Laisrathera's ending? Wow. Perfect for the trilogy and perfect for Reese and Hirianthial. So very good.
Two sections: "The Species of the Alliance Universe" and "The Seven Modes of Eldritch Grammar." I especially liked the one on Eldritch grammar, because I had somehow gotten it into my head that the various colors were telepathic/empathic shades of meaning. It turns out that the different "colors" are actually prefixes.
My read-alikes list is pathetic - most of it is cut-and-paste from Rose Point list. ::hangs head in shame::
- Shades of Empire (e-book) by Carmen Webster Buxton - Laisrathera was probably the darkest of Hogarth's books I've read so far. Those who'd like another dark sci-fi book featuring rebel groups opposing some very nasty people in power might want to try this, the darkest of Carmen Webster Buxton's books I've read so far. I've written about this book.
- Elfquest (graphic novel series) by Wendy and Richard Pini - You can read the series here for free. If you choose to buy print volumes, I highly recommend shelling out for full-color editions - I've seen the black-and-white releases, and the original color versions are way better. I think this may have been the very first non-superhero comic book series I ever read. I was entranced. Gorgeous elves with psychic powers, who bonded with wolves - my teenage self was thrilled. The Eldritch reminded me a little of the proud and stagnating group of elves that Cutter and his people come across later in the series.
- Cordelia's Honor (book) by Lois McMaster Bujold - I haven't read this omnibus yet, although I've read several of Bujold's other Vorkosigan Saga books. I think Bujold would work for Hogarth fans in general, because she peoples her science fiction with wonderful, well-drawn characters. For those interested in reading the series chronologically, I think this might be the beginning.