The first volume of an alien-contact trilogy, from the coeditor (with Lois McMaster Bujold) of Women at War (1995) and author of various Conans, Dragon Lances, and other paperback fantasies. When colony starship Ramparts suffered an irreparable drive failure, its occupants landed on planet Kilmoyn, home to furry ape-seal (or chimp-otter'Green isn't sure) humanoids with a 19th- century'level technology. Calling themselves Drylanders, the humans tried to blend into the native swirl of politicking, plotting, and empire building. Now, however, the Drylanders themselves are split into factions: some favor playing God; others are content to wait for the Kilmoyans to develop advanced technology; and the ruling Directors of their Study Group have their own secret agenda. Under the aegis of the island republic of Kertova, the first ship crewed by Drylanders and Kertovans will join an expeditionary sail/steam fleet under Captain Over Captains Jossu I Hmilra. Hmilra's task: to forge an alliance with Eneh against the imperialist Dhandarans. For Drylander commander trainee Sean Borlund, the voyage provides a learning opportunity. His superior, Commander Barbara Weil, will emerge as captain of her own ship. Eventually, both will be tested in land and sea battles. The battles, when they finally arrive, are gripping and effective, but readers face a long slog through slowly accumulating details and a largely indistinguishable cast. All in all, a promising start.
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