Third in Cherryh's alien-contact--trilogy? series?--about the humanoid alien "atevi" and the human colonists they've permitted to occupy the island of Mospheira (Invader, 1995, etc.). Now, however, the starship that originally brought the colonists has returned from a mysterious deep-space voyage. Bren Cameron, the "paidhi" or translator/technical liaison, the only human allowed to leave Mospheira and mingle with the atevi, has been attempting to instruct the starship's representative, Jase Graham, in the intricacies of "man'chi," the instinctive loyalty that's the only force binding the various atevi clans and factions. Mospheira, meanwhile, dominated by an anti-starship clique led by the deputy paidhi, the ambitious and meddlesome Deana Hanks and her patrician backers, is plotting with atevi rebels against Tabini, the most powerful atevi and Bren's sponsor. Jase is encouraging the atevi to build shuttle craft while instructing them in the nuances of faster-than-light travel. But why should the starship be in such a rush to get the atevi into space? Because, as Bren discovers after another near-ruinous showdown with Hanks, the starship encountered some unfriendly aliens in nearby space and wants the atevi as allies in case matters turn ugly. A familiar yet still impressive and more or less self-contained swirl of political intrigue, filtered though a memorably alien consciousness.