Saturday, December 4, 2021

Bread Alone (Adventures in the Liaden Universe® Number 34), by Sharon Lee, Steve Miller

Pinbeam Books, November 2021

This is a collection of four stories set in Lee and Miller's Liaden Universe--space opera, values that make my heart sing, an appropriate appreciation of the excellence of tea and of cats, together with helpings of romance.

These aren't Korval stories, but rather stories centered around The Bakery. In "Degrees of Separation," Don Eyr is a young, unvalued member of one small and poorly run clan. His love of baking born in his delm's kitchen, where the servants, at least, have time for him. His cousin the nadelm persuades the delm to send him off to be educated--and young Don Eyr decides to attend a prestigious culinary school. When he returns to Liad, he's a different young man, with a partner, Serana, formerly a member of the City Guard where the school is located. On Liad, they find not all is well, and decide to fix their little piece of it. 

In "Fortune's Favors," Mar Tyn, a Luck, acquires a client for his talents that turns into a disaster for him--apparently. Fleeing murder and the theft of his contracted share of his client's winnings, he winds up at The Bakery, in Low Port, and Don Eyr and Serana take him in. That's not the end of his troubles, or theirs, though.

"Block Party" is set not on Liad, but on Surebleak, where Clan Korval has abruptly relocated, with various other Liaden folk finding it necessary or desirable to follow them. Among the latter are Don Eyr and much of the team of The Bakery, as well as a few new recruits. Serana, unfortunately, had a duty to carry out, and hasn't yet caught up with them. And while many of their new neighbors are friendly, especially once Don Eyr starts baking again, some are not.

"Our Lady of Benevolence" is the one new story in this collection, the others being reprints. This one is about what happens at the Low Port home of what was The Bakery, after those who had occupied it and made it a refuge for those in need have departed. The new "owner" was previously "the protector of the six blocks"; having been ousted from that position in the course of the chaos caused by the departure of Clan Korval. The Bakery is a highly defensible location, and it seems like a promising place to reestablish herself. In the process, though, she learns that the people Don Eyr and Serana didn't manage to get out are still there, still have expectations--and may have more to offer than just well-baked bread.

Bringing together these stories brings together some wonderful characters, and the full story (so far) of the growth of a beloved institution within the Liaden Universe. I find it thoroughly satisfying.


I bought this book.

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