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With a truce declared between the major powers, war hero Captain James Robert Neihart returns to the Alliance station of Pell to reclaim one of the Merchanter's own. During the Company Wars, Finity's End had to leave a pregnant crew member on Pell and was unable to retrieve her orphaned son. The Neiharts want their orphaned son back; out of love, but also because the war has cost the Finity's End a generation. No babies have been born, while half the crew - half the family - are dead, making the prodigal youth even more precious. But Fletcher Neihart has left Pell Station for the planet Downbelow where, after a childhood spent in a series of uncaring foster homes, he's found happiness working with the hisa - Downbelow's mystic, peaceful natives. He even has a beautiful girlfriend. The last thing he wants is to be dragged into space. When presented with a letter from his lawyers telling of another round of haggling over his fate, Fletcher tries to lose himself in the wilderness until the Finity's End is forced to leave. Too bad for him - they want him enough to wait. Fletcher is reunited with a home he's never seen. From having no family, he's now surrounded by kinfolk - all battle-scarred strangers more alien than the non-human hisa. Like Jeremy, the hero-worshipping 12-year-old; JR, groomed to be a captain and growing into leadership; Madelaine, ship's attourney and Fletcher's great-grandmother. And the Neiharts must deal with a resentful hostage who bears their name and features, but knows nothing of their history, traditions, or lives. Meanwhile, Finity's End flies toward conflict and danger. For Captain Neihart is dedicated to creating a new Peace - forging a treaty among the worlds, stations, and Merchanters; and opponents will try ambush, sabotage and murder to stop him.
What I like about this book is that Cherryh shows us goals and motivations for each character that make sense for them, but clash in the real world. The trick is what to do then - how to work things out. (And she shows us that, too.) We get a good look at the daily working of a Merchanter family/ship, and what must go on to make it work. We also get another look at the always-fascinating Downers.
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