Ean Lambert is a Linesman, one of the gifted individuals who can manipulate, repair, and use the lines of energy that make faster-than-light travel possible. Moreover, he's a ten, the highest level of Linesman--but he's also a slum kid who came to line training late. He sings to the lines rather than thinking at them. It's odd behavior that, combined with his atypical lower-class background, makes him an oddball and an outcast among higher-level Linesmen.
But with most higher-level Linesmen off investigating the strange, line-like phenomenon of the Confluence these last six months, Lambert has been busy, as the only ten available to repair ship lines. And he's almost the only ten available when Lady Lyan and Commodore Galenos decide they need one to investigate a derelict alien ship.
What follows is high-stakes political and military adventure, as Lambert confronts the strangeness of his way of working the lines, the handicaps of his upbringing and lack of education until he was able to sign on with the Rigel cartel, and being plunged into the middle of political and military crisis. Along with Lambert himself, Lyan, Galenos, and others on Lancastrian Princess are interesting characters, as are Rossi, Fergus, Orsaya, and others among the rival forces.
This is the start of a series of unknown projected length, but this volume comes to a reasonably satisfying ending, and it does a good job of establishing the universe and the basic issues at stake. I like Lambert and his friends and allies, and enjoyed the time getting to know them.
I can't see this as a Hugo nominee next year, but it's certainly a good read.
I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley.