11/03/2002 Entry: "Kate Elliott's JARAN -- 10th Anniversary Edition"
DAW reissued JARAN with a special introduction by the author to celebrate its 10th anniversary. I read it 10 years ago, and enjoyed it well enough to put it on my keeper shelf, but this is my first re-read.
Tess Soerensen has finished school on earth, and wants to escape both an unhappy love affair and the pressures she feels as sister and heir to the hero of Earth's rebellion against alien invaders, called the Chapalii. Though her brother's rebellion was crushed and the Chapalii have taken over Earth and other human-settled worlds, they did not punish Charles Soerensen, but instead made him a noble in their hierarchy and gave him his own worlds to govern. The Chapalii's reasons for doing so remain a mystery, but Charles is secretly planning another rebellion.
Tess's destination is an interdicted world without technology called Rhui, and she uses her rank to get passage on a Chapalii spaceship. She plans to sneak onto the shuttle that will secretly visit Rhui near its largest city, Jeds. Instead, the shuttle lands in a barren area and a contingent of Chapalii, dressed as Rhui natives, depart the ship and leave on horseback. Tess decides to follow to see what they are up to, but can't keep up and becomes lost in this uninhabited wilderness.
She is rescued by Ilya Bakhtian, a charismatic member of the nomadic Jaran tribe, who takes her to shelter with the tribe. Here she uses her talent for languages and her need for family to endear herself to the Jaran, and she becomes an adopted member of the tribe.
Kate Elliott builds a believable world. Even better, her characters and dialogue seem real. I can hear some carping over the fact that Tess certainly becomes adept in her new culture awfully quickly, but this never bothers me when reading science fiction or fantasy, as it might in other genres. I particularly enjoyed the way the romance between Tess and Ilya progressed. Their attraction to each other is obvious, and each tries to deny it. Their conversations sparkle...--Suzanne