Clan Korval, banished from Liad, has relocated to Surebleak, and it has meant big changes for both Surebleak and Korval. Pat Rin, now known to locals as Boss Conrad, has started the transformation of Surebleak's gang-driven anarchy to a workable, more or less civilized society. Val Con and Miri, jointly Delm Korval, are also jointly the Road Boss, under contract to keep the Port Road open. There are no more "insurance sales," no more "examples" being made of those who don't pay up, and there are street patrols and schools for the children. Improved law and order also has more business coming to the Port, to everyone's benefit.
But some people aren't happy. They found the old system very profitable, and they're determined to bring down the new Council of Bosses and Clan Korval (known locally mostly as just "the Dragon.") Korval's offworld enemies aren't gone quiet, either.
"Insurance salesmen" start calling on local businesses, again, and only some of the targets have the confidence to come forward and complain. The "Heavy Transport Committee" sends an emissary to Val Con, hoping to bribe him for "exceptions" to the weight limits on the Road. It's an approach grounded in the belief that he mus resent "big brother" Pat Rin getting bigger billing and more of the profit. It's all building toward a plan to take out the "new bosses," and bring back the old, familiar, profitable, law-free ways of Surebleak.
Meanwhile, Val Con also has eight Agents of Change, agents of the Department of the Interior, locked up. He doesn't want to kill prisoners, but only he and one other have ever broken free of DoI conditioning. Can they be freed from their conditioning? If not, can he really keep the prisoner for the rest of their lives? And Clan Korval and, though they don't realize it, all of Liad, are in danger as long and the Department of the Interior exists.
It all comes together in a major crisis, further enlivened by the arrival of a tourist group of Liaden ne'er-do-wells, come to witness what they imagine is the humiliation of Korval.
There's a lot of fast-paced action, and a lot of exploration of old friends, new friends, and their complicated interrelationships. If you've enjoyed prior Liaden books, you'll love this--and as the start of a new story arc, it's not a bad place to start, either.
I received a free copy of this audiobook from Audible.com in exchange for an honest review.