Summary: In the second book of M.C.A. Hogarth's (aka haikujaguar Her Instruments romantic series, perpetually put upon tramp starship captain Theresa “Reese” Eddings takes her ship and crew to a remote colony world to scout out trade prospects. When her ship's medic, a member of the mysterious, elf-like and near immortal Eldritch named Hirianthial, is kidnapped by horse rustlers(!), she transports him back to his homeworld after Hiranthanial's already considerable esper abilities are forced open to new and dangeous levels from the abuse he suffered during his experience.
When she gets there, Reese finds herself in the middle of a nascent civil war, as the Eldritch queen uses Reese to force her enemies out in the open, and the Eldritch are forced to face the possibility of opening their society to the galaxy at large, or face extinction.
Review: I liked reading the first story in this series, Earthrise, when Hogarth posted it as a serial to her LJ, but I had reservations about the characters, particularly Reese, who had a notable ability to make the exact wrong decision when its inherent stupidity is waving itself in her face. I'm glad to see her character has improved somewhat, as she takes the macinations around the Eldritch Queen's court with a larger grain of salt, even if she becomes rapidly enamored with a planet that has all the trappings of her monthly romance subscription but not flush toilets.
Generally speaking the focus of the book is the deepening relationship between Reese and Hiranthanial, and to a lesser extent Reese and her crew, and to that end the story serves well enough, though the villian's motivations remain somewhat murky.
While I was okay when everyone arrived at the Eldritch homeworld, the beginning bit on the Planet of the Horse Rustlers drove me a bit nuts. Any villianous plan that involves “Reducing our inventory of weapons to hand made bows and living out in the sticks, while the good guys rest easy in town” is a crappy plan. Also the Horse Rustlers leader is supposedly very charismatic, but he's basically defined as an Evil Bisexual , just so Hiranthanial can be relatively guilt free when his new Esper powers kick in and he slaughters them.
Actually poor villian motivation tends to be a hallmark of this book. The baddie on the Eldritch homeworld is Hiran's brother, forming a Cain and Abel relationship with him, and his plan to overthrow the Eldritch Queen is a good one, but then it takes a left turn when he reveals his Ultimate Plan is to sell out the Eldritch race to the Chatcaavan (S&M loving, shapeshifting Space Dragons), who like to have Eldritch as disposable playthings. And he expects of course they'll stick to their end of the bargain and not make him part of their dinner....
Okay, it sounds like I'm knocking this book but I did enjoy it. Just had a few bumps along the way as I tried to reconcile a few things.
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General Pelted Worldbuilding Stuff
Going beyond the scope of the series into the wider Pelted universe, I'm starting to wonder how old the Alliance is. It was founded by genetically engineeered ex-slaves and basically has Star Trek tech at its core, but the Eldritch have an average lifespan of 1,500 years, and they're genetically engineered humans who have been living on their world for enough generations that they've forgotten how to do the flush toliet thing. Not to mention antibiotics.... (to Hogarth's credit the latter is a BIG problem, resulting in plummeting reproduction as Eldritch in general fall to basic infections and female Eldritch face severe childbirth difficulties). That implies... 5,000 years? 10,000? Which you would think would result in the Singularity finally coming along or everyone living at Ian M. Bank's Culture levels of comfort, but things aren't that much different from our world, aside from some tech goodies.
Also, in a universe defined by extreme levels of genetic engineering, including those ex-slaves creating new sub-races, no one in the past few thousand years have managed to recreate the Eldritch gene hack of what amounts to functional immortality? No one is even interested? Eldritch in this universe tend to be targets because Pretty Boy Space Elves are attractive, but no one has ever thought to grab a blood sample and start analyzing it? There's a handwave about The Veil, which supposedly is a diplmatic gaurantee between the Eldritch and the Alliance not to reveal the former's secrets, but given the Alliance can't even control Space Pirates operating on its perimeter, I can't believe that would hold for five minutes against a genetics corporation with visions of sales in its head.
 I think if/when interstellar colinazation becomes a reality, there should a law enacted that upon landing the first thing the colonists are required to do is construct a five story granite frieze in pictograms demonstrating the necesscity and basic engineering techniques for constructing functioning toilets and associated sewer systems in case of unexpected industrial base collapse. With the corallary that deliberately attempting to found a colony without such systems is grounds for immediate prosecution by any larger interstellar governments.
 In a book written in 2013? Really? And this is a series where brother/sister incest (between two consenting adults) is treated as a quirk.