Monday, 27 May 2013

Trader's Honour by Patty Jansen

Trader's Honour by Patty Jansen is a sort of standalone sequel to Watcher's Web. It takes place mainly on the same planet and some of the same people make appearances, but the main character is new and the main part of her story is entirely separate to the character's from Watcher's Web. Abridged blurb (for length):
Mikandra Bisumar is useless to her father: she carries the curse of infertility that plagues the Endri people of Miran. Forced to work in the hospital to pay her duty to her proud nation, she dreams of becoming a Trader, one of the people who bring great prosperity to Miran.

To her surprise Iztho Andrahar, from the city's most prestigious Trading family, has agreed to take her on. That is where her troubles begin.
Her father is so angry with her that she has to leave her home. Worse, the Andrahar Traders have been accused of smuggling. Iztho has disappeared and the business license suspended.

Mikandra has nowhere to go, except try to help Iztho's brothers prove their innocence.
Mikandra has guts, something I like in a character (to the surprise of no one, heh). Instead of continuing to sit around in what she sees as a broken society, she takes steps to change her situation. First she applies for the Trader Academy, going to another Miran Trader family when her Trader aunt won't take her as an apprentice. Then, when it looks like her dreams will fall through because her sponsor family is in trouble, instead of running back to the relative comforts of home (if an abusive father can really be called a comfort), she sets out to help her sponsor's family. Helping in this case, involves travelling to another continent, when she'd never left the city before, and trying to track down her recalcitrant sponsor. Her mission turns out to be harder than she'd assumed but she sticks it out, even after being robbed on her first day there.

I enjoyed reading about Mikandra a lot. I was a bit hesitant to read Trader's Honour because I didn't enjoy Watcher's Web — I gave up about half way through mainly because I couldn't relate to the main character's reactions to her situation — but I decided to try the sample on SmashWords and was hooked. Mikandra is a very different character in a different situation. So if you haven't enjoyed Watcher's Web but the premise of Trader's Honour sounds like something you'd enjoy, I urge you to give it a shot.

Trader's Honour deals quite a bit with notions of how societies (should) work. The Mirani have two classes of people, the nobility (which includes Mikandra) and the working classes. The noble class not only limits the prospects of its women, but also believes that it's their duty to protect and care for the lower classes. As we learn quite early on, they don't do as good a job as they could. By contrast, Barresh, the other continent, is thought to be primitive and more or less useless. But when Mikandra arrives there she finds that, yes, it is very different (there's a bit of appropriate culture-shock on her part). Over time she learns that different does not mean worse, not the way the other nobles think, and starts to see a lot of potential around her. It made me think of biases against developing countries and how some are actually the world's fastest growing economies.

When the characters from Watcher's Web started showing up I felt a bit frustrated that I didn't have as much background information on them as if I'd finished the book, but it really wasn't necessary. It merely put me on the same level as Mikandra. And if I hadn't known there was another book, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't've cared.

Trader's Honour is an enjoyable science fiction read. It's low on technobabble and explicit sciencey stuff, although the worldbuilding is fairly solid. (If you're curious, Patty wrote about the worldbuilding here.) As such, I think it might also appeal to fantasy fans who don't mind a few aeroplanes and a spot of interplanetary travel in their fiction. I highly recommend it to science fiction fans.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: April 2013, self-published
Series: Return of the Aghyrians book 2 of 2 so far, but it's a series of stand-alones.
Format read: ePub, mostly on my Kobo
Source: Review copy courtesy of the author (SmashWords link)
Disclaimer: Although Patty is a friend I have attempted to write an unbiased review
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge, Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge

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