In the latest Liaden Universe tale, Lee and Miller take the reader back several centuries prior to the adventures of Shan yos'Galan and family. Jethri Goblyn grew up on a trading ship, but finds out that his family is planning to apprentice him to a mining ship, the dullest of assignments. While in port, however, he unwittingly performs a service for a Liaden master trader, who takes him on as her apprentice instead. Jethri is eager to learn about the complicated world of Liaden trade and finance, but as the first Terran ever apprenticed to a Liaden trader, he has even more to learn about the intricacies of Liaden culture.

This is an effective coming-of- age story set against a backdrop of a complicated and sometimes deadly clash of cultures. Fans of the series will relish this glimpse into an earlier era of Liaden history. As a stand-alone SF adventure, Balance of Trade's requires little backstory for new readers.

The book's dialogue sparkles with wit and verve and characters come vividly to life. Jethri is a terrific young hero, a boy learning to be a man in an utterly foreign place. Just enough is left unresolved, including a potential romance, to ensure an eager audience for a sequel. (Sep., 464 pp., $16.00)
Reviewed by: 
Jen Talley Exum