Inquiring author wants to know

In your opinion, what is the:

Darkest Liaden book?

Lightest Liaden book?

Please show your work, by which I mean, explain your choice.

NOTE:  Since the eArc of Dragon in Exile is available and some folks have read it, it may be nominated for either of the above categories.  HOWEVER, since the official publication date is not yet upon us, please, if you do nominate DiE, leave a spoiler space before your explanation, out of compassion for those who wait for the retail release.  Thanks.

16 thoughts on “Inquiring author wants to know”

  1. For the lightest I say Balance of Trade. Or Saltation.

    Darkest, hmm. The second Crystal book.

  2. Darkest: Crystal Dragon because while they succeed in leaving, the loses are too great.

    Lightest: Agent of Change if ‘light’ is defined as blowing things up with abandon. Also, turtles! 🙂

  3. You don’t write light novels, nope. I’d be hard-pressed to name which was lightest. Balance of Trade might be for some; it’s not for me, because I know what it feels like to be the child no one wants. Ditto for Saltation. I’m almost inclined to say Agent of Change is lightest. Val Con and Miri have moments, but you can see where the relationship is heading, even upon first read, and it’s an adventure more than anything else.

    STORIES now — there’s a different matter. Day at the Races, for example, or the one whose title is escaping me in which Daav has a duel with water balloons. (GAWD but I love Daav…)

    I’m guessing the answers you’ll get for darkest will be all over the map, because what one person defines as dark another may not. People who have experienced abuse and domestic violence are going to react very differently to your books than those who have not — you twang a lot of different strings. Scout’s Progress strikes me hard, and I know a young woman, also badly neglected as a child, who was unable to finish it at all. The Crystal novels are dark, but not as emotionally wrenching. I found Ghost Ship/Dragon Ship darker than Crystal Dragon because I’m so fond of Win Ton. It was difficult to watch him lose the special spark that made him a pilot,that made him who he was and seemed to make up much of his joie de vivre.

  4. “Choice of Weapons,” the water balloons was.

    More than any other of the Liaden stories/novels, Scout’s Progress was written from personal experience. Had I known how very scary it was going to be to write Aelliana, in terms of ghosts waked, I might not have undertaken it, but, once begun. . .

  5. Great point re SP, Christine. I think as a rom reader it feels more optimistic to me because despite the truly awful things that happened to Aelliana, she is in a happy relationship at the end of the book. The heroine has triumphed over adversity.

    The relationship in Crystal Dragon ends with Jela’s death even if that’s not the end of the book, so from a distance that is less hopeful to me. Cantra has triumphed over adversity, there’s hope for humankind but there’s grief and a gaping hole, especially poignant because personal happiness came so late to her and was so short.

    On a more general plane, the feeling that the sheriekas are just out there biding their time and somehow will arrive in this new universe eventually also leaves a strong feeling of dread/melancholy at the end of each reread. There are wider themes in all the books but SP feels more a personal book whereas CD is a society-wide story with serious implications for all people. The feeling of helplessness in the face of overwhelming odds, of being swept along willy-nilly while you can see the bad decisions being made resonates rather strongly and may be tapping into what Americans feel re political movements/developments (or it may just be me).

    It will be interesting to see what book other readers pick as darkest.

  6. Wow. This is a tough one. I have recently finished reading the (chronologically) first 8 books, Local Custom through I Dare. I am waiting for Crystal Soldier/Crystal Dragon to arrive in the mail. I would have to agree that Pilot’s Choice is the darkest, just because of the abuse that Aelliana deals with. My second choice would be Agent of Change, just because any book where a protagonist is working against a method of mind control creeps me out on an elemental level. This is one reason I was hoping AGAINST Theo becoming captain of Belchimo in Dragon Ship.

    Lightest? I have to say Conflict of Honors. Yes, there are some dark moments in there, especially the bits where Priscilla has to interact with Dagmar, but I love the scenes with Shan and Priscilla. When they are sparring verbally with each other, you KNOW that things are going to work out for them. I love Shan’s way of talking throughout the series, and when he is talking with Priscilla or Daav or Gordy, it is taken to the next level.

    John out.

  7. “Lightest” I will choose to define as “most uplifting” – which would, for me be Local Custom. I cry every time I read it, but partly because here is such obvious joy and magic behind the action – it is truly a wonderfully written romance. Also, “sparkles”! Runner up would be Conflict of Honors – for all the reasons John mentions above.

    Darkest, I will choose to define as having the most cheerlessness, where I feel the main character is haunted for the majority of the book – so I Dare. My hear simply broke for Pat Rin throughout most of this book – the scenes on Lytaxin helping to provide a much needed lighter balance or I’m not sure I would have made it to the end. Runners up – Plan B [for the many losses experienced, the transformation of Shan (No, Shan, you can’t put it back), and Val’s excruciating flight at the end of the novel] and Ghost Ship/Dragon ship – because it feels like Theo is simply always hounded (this trend started ramping up in Saltation).

    Hardest book to read – Crystal Dragon. The Sorcerer Prologue was so very hard for me to wrap my brain around. Only after reading it three times do I think I mostly fully grasp it…but despite Jela’s loss, there is too much celebration of life in the book for me to call it dark, really.

    Scouts Progress fails to make dark for me because I always knew it would work out in the end (having read the books out of order). This book, at its core, is again mostly a soaring love story – love of math, ship and persons…angry, yes I got angry, but too much joy here for it to be dark to me.

  8. Darkest Liaden book? That’s kind of like asking what the sweetest vinegar is, or the least intoxicating vodka. I don’t typically think “dark” when I think Liaden.

    I suppose I’d have to pick Crystal Dragon, given that it deals with the greatest villains to be found in the entire series—so evil that they don’t merely destroy lives, they destroy sectors of space, unmaking them as if they had never been. When your endgame scenario is the literal end of the universe, and repercussions are still being felt in another universe hundreds of years later…yeah, that’s pretty dark.

    Lightest…well, that’s kind of asking what the sourest vinegar or most intoxicating vodka is. 🙂 Pretty much all your books have some darkness inherent in them. I suppose I’d have to pick Balance of Trade. As a bildungsroman, there isn’t a villain worse than an ominous scout or an obnoxious low-ranking Liaden trader. Nobody gets tortured or brain-burned, and there isn’t an ominous authoritarian state peering over the characters’ shoulders. The stakes are a lot lower than the planet- or galaxy-affecting stories of the other books; it’s simply the story of a young man finding his vocation through hard work and study.

    Now that I’ve given my answer, it should be fun to see what other people picked and why…

  9. Darkest book I agree with many others, Crystal Dragon, for the same reasons so I wont rehash, though Plan B could be a close second in my opinion. Poor Pat Rin, and all the setup required to get to I Dare, but such a payoff.

    Lightest…well, I guess it depends on what makes something light. I am going with Carpe Diem. My reasoning is three fold. One, because it showed a simple life on a planet that had no technology and how they could adapt, two, it had a fun ending, and three – and most importantly – Turtles. It had turtles. Did I mention the turtles?

  10. I won’t include Dragon in Exile. So…. Darkest to me is Scout’s Progress. The Crystal books and the Department arc are “big enemies”, but their menace is somehow impersonal even with mind-control and shooting (can’t explain that adequately even as I write it). Maybe it’s just the contrast: with Aelliana, it’s so up close and personal and the emotions are bubbling on the surface. Maybe emotional abuse pushes some buttons. Plus, I think the writing was better in this one (although I fully enjoy all of the books and shorts), so the emotions were strongly communicated through the words.

    Lightest to me has to be Balance of Trade. Yes, there are enemies and adventure (“someone else having a tough time a thousand parsecs away” by definition), but somehow there is no dark cloud hanging over him. Perhaps it is his determination and positive outlook on life that chase away any darkness associated with being the unwanted child and compensate for people wanting to shoot him. I always feel he is moving forward and will have a greatly challenging, greatly rewarding life. (I’m ready for the sequels, hint, hint)

  11. Dark: I love everything Liaden, but the first few times I read Scout’s Progress, there were points where I felt like throwing up, or killing Ran Eld–slowly. In Scout’s Progress evil is in your face. And Aelli confronts it alone.

    Light: To pick one, Balance of Trade. Jethri is in a dangerous social system, but he is also learning and experiencing life–and Norn has his back. Gotta love that woman.

    In defense of the Hall of the Mountain Kings. I respect that for some people it does not resonate. On the other hand, I thought it was brilliant and very realistic.

  12. Late as usual.

    I don’t think any book in the series is particularly dark or light. Each of them has dark and light moments, but the books have never failed to make me feel that the Liaden Universe is just as it should be.

    For example, I did not want Jela to die, but I understood his death was inevitable, and I’m just grateful his manner of death had purpose and meaning.

    Even in the darkest moments, you and Steve have always held out a tiny ray of hope for the future. Jela’s child and Jelaza Kazone come immediately to mind, but there are dozens of similar examples.

    For every pain, there is joy to balance. How can anyone call that dark?

  13. Scout’s Progress is both very hard to read and also very uplifting. Aelli is such a marvelous character, and it’s astounding to watch her find her strength and learn to fly (both literally and metaphorically). It is, also, hands down my favorite Liaden novel, and flies a narrow course that encompasses both great darkness and great lightness.

    The Crystal duology is, to me, the darkest, because the villain is so very terrifying. Even knowing they must have successfully escaped to found the Clan Korval in the books I’d already read, I found that villain profoundly frightening.

    For lightest, I am torn between Conflict of Honors and Local Custom. Both are, in many ways, traditional romances with HEA endings and everything. Not that they don’t have darkness in them, because they do, but the overall feel is, to me, much lighter.

  14. My suspicion is that Mouse and Dragon is the darkest. I thoroughly loved Scout’s Progress, but it was also gut wrenching and nerve-racking. So, as ridiculous as it sounds, I can’t bring myself to read Mouse and Dragon – hasn’t Aellianna endured enough already?

    Val Con’s entrapment was very chilling, as is the whole Dept of the Interior sequence. And yet, somehow, not as bleak as Aellianna’s quiet story, or to a lesser extent, Daav’s aloneness.

    It’s hard pick the lightest Liaden book. They’re filled with light and delight.

  15. You’re missing a really good book, but — your call, naturally. If you’re listening to the folks who claim that Mouse and Dragon is “about a death” — they’re. . .wrong. Just sayin’.

    It’s. . .interesting. . .how many people are calling Scout’s Progress “dark” because “Aelliana’s life is so hard.” I sorta thought the point of the story was that, yes, her life was hard and terrible things had happened to her, and yet — she found friends, and claimed her abilities, spread her wings. . .and flew. Despite it all. Because of it all.

    Admittedly, that’s Just Me.

  16. Absolutely. SP is wonderfully triumphant! I cheered out loud 🙂

    Reviews mentionig Aelliana’s death haven’t put me off. I’ve read the Theo stories, and know she survives. It was the book description at Amazon, which says “Aelliana’s home clan being not as agreeable to letting her go as it had first seemed.”

    It’s not just that Aelliana’s life has been hard. It’s the bleakness of her family – I’ve dreaded facing that scenario again, especially after she finally got away.

    If people are zeroing in on Aelliana’s story – it’s really a testament of how moving & authentically the book is written..Both she and Daav are very real, and they’re people we care about.

    (Thank you for your reply, and your encouragement ! I will read it next)

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