Lately, I’ve been stumbling into fandoms completely by accident. I started reading Pandora Hearts and got hooked into reading all 24 volumes. I jumped into the Star Wars novels, only vaguely aware of the fact that it will take me my entire life to catch up with them all. I fell into the Sword Art Online anime….Darn Netflix and their “top picks for you” category.
It was then that I decided: “Okay, enough. No more fandoms until you can get caught up with the ones you already have.”
Needless to say, soon after making that decision, I was roped into yet another fandom. It started with just one book: Local Customs by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. It was okay, so I thought could read another one without getting caught up in the entire series.
I was wrong.
The book was amazing. And I don’t mean, “Whoa, great characters, great plot” amazing. I mean complete loss of speaking skills amazing: “Ahhh!! Ajskldejiosjlkdd” amazing.
The book’s name is Scout’s Progress. Written by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, it is the 6th book in the Liaden Universe. Yes, Universe. As in, there are 20 books and counting Universe. Yep. This is a fandom that I’m going to be in for a long, long time. So much for my catching up plan.
Want to know the plot? You know what, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to tell you anyway:
Aelliana Caylon has lived her entire live under the thumb of her overbearing brother, the head of the Caylon family. Though she is a brilliant mathematician credited with creating tables that have saved the lives of thousands of pilots, he has convinced her that she has no worth beyond what value she might have in an arranged contract marriage.
One day, on a dare, she plays a game of chance and wins a starship. It is her way to escape her home, her planet, and her unhappy life, but only if she can qualify as a pilot. Taught to undervalue herself, she fears that she may not be skilled enough to do so.
But when she meets Daav, an accomplished Scout, Master Pilot, and adept teacher, she begins to hope that she will be able to gain her piloting license and fly off-planet, away from the constricting duties she holds to her clan.
Unbeknownst to Aelliana, Daav is a member of clan Korval, one of the richest, most powerful clans on Liad. It is his duty to Korval to secure the alliance of another clan through contract marriage, even if he feels no love for his betrothed.
Together, Aelliana and Daav take a stand against the strict rules of their clans, daring to take control of their lives and search out their own callings.
I have so much love for this book that I’m not even sure where to start. Hmmm. Let’s see. It’s amazing. Did I mention that already?
The Liaden Universe is written by a husband and wife team (which is beyond cool), and it falls into the Space Opera genre, with a good amount of adventure, romance, wizardry, and intrigue. For a definition of Space Opera, read Goody’s explanation here.
World-building in Scout’s Progress is beyond stellar. Every part of Liad is carefully constructed: the social etiquette, the inner workings of the clans, the systems through which a person can become a pilot, the politics, the schooling, the Scouts, the marriage systems, and even the foods.
All of this information is presented in a way that is easy to understand, while also giving it a realistic feel. We’re talking Tolkien-level development, but with out the excess descriptions, confusion, or characters with 8 different names (What’s up with that?).
Now let’s talk about the characters: Daav is the coolest person ever. He’s part of a group call the Scouts, which are a school of people who explore space and are taught to understand the customs of all peoples, not just Liadans. Because of this, they are very brave, open-minded, and skilled in reading situations and people. They actually have a lot of similarities to Jedi.
Anyway, Daav is a very easy character to root for. His independent spirit rankles under the strict customs of Liad, and you can’t help but want him to find a way to overcome them.
The same can be said for Aelliana. Her transition from a fearful, scarred young woman into a pilot willing to stand up for herself is awesome to behold.
The pacing of this story was great. The book was written in third person, switching back and forth between Aelliana and Daav’s point of view, though other interesting secondary characters were given some page time, too. Rather than telling entire chapters from one point of view, chapters would often switch characters multiple times, an interesting technique that Lee and Miller pulled off well.
At this point, you might be wondering something. There are 20 books in this Universe, but Scout’s Progress is the 6th book. Am I reviewing them in the wrong order?
This collection is not meant to be read (or reviewed) in any particular order. In fact, many of the books are written as standalones. Technically, you could read Scout’s Progress without having reading Local Custom first. It doesn’t really matter. Sure, some are sequels and some probably should be read before or after others. Sharon Lee explains everything you need to know about the reading order here.
I’d recommend starting with Scout’s Progress. You can get it on your kindle, or as a mass market paperback, or as part of a 3-book omnibus (which is what I did). I know that the covers for these books are all a bit cheesy looking. But, in this case, the “don’t judge a book by its cover” rule applies. Don’t judge. Just read. You can thank me later.
Scout’s Progress doesn’t seem to be very well known and that’s something I hope will change soon. It shows us characters who take hold of their own lives rather than letting other people or circumstances decide their course for them. And, in doing so, it inspires its readers to do the same. We need more books like that, don’t you think?
Have you read Scout’s Progress or any other books from the Liaden Universe? Please leave a comment below! And, if you haven’t read Scout’s Progress, then you’re really missing out. This is a book that you’ll want to bump up to the top of your ‘to be read’ list.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my numerous fandoms are calling. I must answer.
Hannah Heath – bookworm and author