Mouse And Dragon (Liaden Universe Novels) Hardcover – 1 Jun 2010
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About the Author
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller live in the rolling hills of Central Maine with two insistent muses in the form of cats and a large cast of characters. The husband-and-wife team's collaborative work in science fiction and fantasy include twelve novels and numerous short stories in their award-winning Liaden Universe(r). In addition to their collaborative work, Steve has seen short stories, nonfiction, and reviews published under his name, while Sharon has seen published short stories, newspaper pieces, and two mystery novels. Steve was the founding curator of the University of Maryland's Kuhn Library Science Fiction Research Collection and a former Nebula juror. For five years, Sharon served the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, consecutively as Executive Director, Vice President and President. Sharon's interests include music, seashores and pine cones. Steve also enjoys music, plays tournament chess, and collects cat whiskers.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is the tale of a mathematician, a mouse, what might have been a bullied wreck but for inner strength. It is a tale of triumph over adversity, justice, qualities (the good and the bad) hidden behind facades and yet dug up and recognised. The joy of the plots premise reaching its full potential in the end is a triumph! I couldn't put the book down, or stop thinking about it afterwards. It is not one of the complex space opera, spying, battling or technology books, it is much more and much richer than that: it is people first and tech as a product of or tool for their own hard earned work and skills.
I won't put in any plot spoilers, it's too good a book to want to take that away from any reader, besides you can get that elsewhere... can't recomend this highly enough. On my shelf in hard back. So glad its on Kindle too now.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In "Scout's Progress," Aelliana Caylon found that she wasn't merely a battered woman and brilliant mathematician; she had piloting skills, and had more ability and daring than she'd ever previously knew. In exploring her new field, piloting, she found an unexpected ally and friend -- Daav yos'Phelium, Delm Korval -- and a halting romance grew between the two, as makes sense when one of the pair has been beaten down repeatedly by the vicissitudes of life through no fault of hers. Daav was kind, patient, knowledgable about piloting, and had never before felt so strongly about any woman because on their world, Liad, men and women usually get together for brief periods (a year or two) in order to produce a child through an arrangement called a "contract marriage." Love plays little part in this, and while long-term love matches are not unknown, they are rare.
Because of Aelliana's systematic abuse at the hands of first her ex-husband, then her brother and Nadelm (second in command of her clan, and the heir apparent), she had more or less sworn off all men, but slowly grew through the course of "Scout's Progress" to realize her very real attraction to Daav the man -- an attraction that was just as much mental and emotional as it was physical. (The realm of the spirit is dealt with differently in Lee and Miller's Liaden Universe; let's just say their spirits were aligned as well, but they were unaware of this at the time.) And despite the worst her brother could throw at her in his last-ditch attempt to control Aelliana and keep her from Daav or anyone else intending good things for her, it looked as though Daav and Aelliana would live happily ever after at the end of "Scout's Progress."
But time marches on, and circumstances are sometimes brutal even to true lovers; in Daav's case, he has marital complications to extricate himself from (yet another contract marriage was on the horizon, something Daav was dreading), while Aelliana's Delm and mother has finally decided to take an interest in her daughter as due to the events of "Scout's Progress," her son (and favorite) had to be disinherited and declared "dead" to the clan. (As in, he was now an untouchable, unseeable presence. Not an actual, physical death.) Aelliana's scholarship is praised by her mother for the first time, and Aelliana's piloting skills suddenly have become a huge prize for her clan of Mizel; despite the love match between Daav and Aelliana (a soul-deep connection called a "lifemating"), Mizel's Delm refuses to grant permission for Aelliana to marry. (Aelliana is well over the age of consent and has been previously married, but this is a highly mannered society. Without her mother's consent -- as her mother is the Delm -- Aelliana can't do very much about her own wishes.)
And Daav's own family has its share of problems; the beautiful but cold Kareen yos'Phelium, Daav's older sister and sole member of the Korval Clan who does not pilot (thus, she cannot be Delm by Korval's own rules), is spiteful and cruel. She has abused her own son to the point that Daav had Kareen's son Pat Rin taken from her and placed with the amiable Trader Luken bel'Tarda, something which is not an accident and is not as small a part of the plotline as it seems at first. Because of Daav's forthright action in this matter, Kareen will stop at nothing to keep Daav from any happiness of his own, and while she hasn't outright colluded with Delm Mizel in anything, she's more than happy enough to pass rumors along at the glittering parties she throws nightly. This is not a complication Daav and Aelliana had expected to face, and it throws an even bigger monkey wrench into the proceedings.
Finally, Aelliana's sister Sinit, who is now the only possibility to become Delm of Clan Mizel after their mother passes on, needs to be provided for . . . and it is through Aellina's compassion for her sister and the resolute and steady love she has for Daav that finally settles matters in a highly satisfactory way.
These are the main elements of the book, but the minor elements -- how Aelliana and Daav form their partnership, how their marriage goes (they don't get more than a few short years together, something which resonated strongly), and seeing their young son Val Con along with Anne Davis' and Er'Thom yos'Galan's son Shan in their youth is worth a great deal all by itself -- also add an almost indefinable sense of place, a way to completely nail down the pair of them without giving up too much of Daav and Aelliana's privacy.
Note -- the final paragraphs contain spoilers, so look away if you do not want your reading spoiled.
. . . Go!
All right. You need to realize as a reader that this great love story is no less great due to its brevity or its poignancy; as many have pointed out already, Aelliana's fate has already been determined by the later books in the series "I Dare," "Fledgling," and "Saltation." Knowing what's happened to her because of those books, the entirety of her brief and joyous union was thrown into especially sharp relief. The SFnal solution Miller and Lee found remains no less surprising to me now than it did the first time I read "I Dare" -- it is a fully unique way to deal with the issue of the spirit and the spirit's great love for a spouse after the physical death of one of the pair.
Further, as a widow who lost her own beloved spouse after a few, short years, I appreciated the lessons Daav learned that he carried on into his own mostly separate future without his lovely wife Aelliana's physical presence. This was realistic, one of the most realistic ways to look at a young widower I've ever seen if you strip out the SFnal aspects of it all -- you _do_ think about your spouse, and you _do_ things differently because of what you learned because of your love for your spouse and the love of your spouse for you. Your world isn't the same, and you can't make it the same; all you can do is go on with the gifts you have, and honor your spouse the best you can in the usage of those gifts. I think Daav did that, and continues to do that throughout the series; the reason this book is particularly difficult in some spots for me to read is the palpable and heart-rending nature of his pain. That Daav eventually realizes (due to the SFnal elements) that his wife's spirit hasn't gone anywhere and his wife's love hasn't gone anywhere, either, makes no nevermind about the pain; the fact remains that his wife's body is dead. The world he knows will not recognize that his wife's spirit is alive. And everything he'd hoped for is now in ruins.
I don't know how Lee and Miller got this right, as their personal partnership/marriage remains strong and they're both in good health to the best of my knowledge. Neither of them have been widowed at an early age (or in early middle age) and they shouldn't really know how to convey this as well as they do -- not at the visceral, emotional level. I don't know how they did it. I appreciate that they did it, but I honestly don't know _how_ they did it -- but the tears I cried while reading their outstanding book "Mouse and Dragon," and again while composing this review, are a testament to their ability to get to the emotional heart of the matter.
The upshot: Five stars-plus. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys great books -- but widows and widowers in particular might want to take a look at this as well. There are a lot of "home truths" here that I appreciated and felt valuable, most especially the truth that our spouses live on -- in us.
While recovering at homewith a bum ankle, a friend sent me a care package from Amazon.com that included MOUSE AND DRAGON, and I devoured the book in a single evening. Adventure, humor, romance, political scheming, all the hallmarks of a Liaden adventure, with characters that you care passionately about. New fans and old will enjoy this tale.
Go, read, enjoy!
The biggest problem is that this book just is not fun. Part of it is a rehash of Scout's Progress. Much of it is an uninspired plot-line where Clan Mitzel appears to be doing its best to make an enemy of Clan Korval out of spite, rather than seeing an unexpected chance to ally themselves with the richest and most powerful trading clan in the galaxy. And then it ends up with a laundry list of unexplained and unconnected events which end up with the characters placed where we already know they will end up.
If you ever imagined what the story was that covered this period of time for Korval, then trust me, you imagined a better story than you will find in this book.
It is particularly disappointing because Fledgling and Saltation were such new and interesting variations on the Liaden experience. Mouse And Dragon, unfortunately, is neither new nor interesting.