Here we are on book three of S.K. Dunstall’s Linesman series, CONFLUENCE. Our friends seem to be barely hanging on because now the Emperor of Lancia, Michelle’s father, has decided to assert his influence in the New Alliance, which includes marrying her off for political gain. Emperor Yu also wants his cousin, Ean’s trusty bodyguard Dominique Radko, to marry to one of Yu’s trusted (and nefarious) advisors–to Ean’s dismay. But Michelle and gang are crafty and begin their own maneuverings in order to maintain as much control of events as they can.
Unfortunately, the humans aren’t taking the sentient alien ships into account. The ships want a crew now, whether the New Alliance factions are ready to supply crews and linesmen or not. And that may mean the ships start choosing crew without input from the humans.
It feels like everything is on the verge of blowing up.
But not every blows up right away, Dunstall spends their time building the story; the pacing is as consistent as the first two books, and with a lot less terseness in the prose and character movement (yay!). As a result of the ships requiring crew, Ean tries to fast-track linesman training, but the new batch includes a fellow who used to be part of Ean’s old cartel house and the prejudices against Ean’s method of communicating with the lines flares up among the recruits. In an effort to avoid meeting her betrothed, Radko is sent on special assignment to recover information about new linesman experiments Redmond is conducting. She’s given lead over a team of potential linesmen, who may or may not be the best fit for a potentially dangerous assignment.
CONFLUENCE is told only from Ean and Radko’s PoVs this time around. Ean is his usual, bumbling genius self who tries to manage the alien ships clamoring for crew, his worry for Radko, and dealing with a bunch of surly linesmen who think singing to the lines is dumb. Radko’s story takes up as much time as Ean’s, because the events do matter in the bigger picture of the novel. I did get a little bored with some of the set-up and details of her op, but fortunately the characters on her team were an interesting bunch with their own unique backstories and abilities. What Radko learns as a result changes everything.
In CONFLUENCE, since we don’t spend as much time with Ean, there’s less new stuff for us to learn about linesmen and their abilities. But we’re still given enough about how the alien ships choose crew, what it means to overcome bad training, and really understanding what each line does–and how linesmen use them.
The big star of this book, however, is the politics. It took me the whole book to understand the why/what/how of how people/events/places connected, but that’s my own failing more than the authors’. Dunstall focuses on Yu and his machinations and motivations, and how his influence and power affect those around him. He’s definitely the villain of the book, but he’s still Michelle’s father, and the leader of her people, who has Lancia’s best-interests at heart. Unfortunately he causes a lot of trouble in his desire to do what he thinks his best, even if it means ruining his daughter and cousin’s lives.
CONFLUENCE is the third book in the Linesman series, with a clever premise, aliens, strange spaceship technology, and an atypical hero.
I’m enjoying the series, but I’m not sure what to expect next, as it seems like the big stuff has been resolved. But if the exciting ending is any indication, things are going to change.
Should you read this series? If you like space opera, then, yes, this series is for you. It’s safe for your Sci Fi-loving teen boys to read, and it’s fun for us grown-ups, too.
- Recommended Age: 13+, more for comprehension than content
- Language: None
- Violence: Peril; non-gruesome on-screen deaths
- Sex: None