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A Matter of Profit

A Matter of Profit

4.0 10
by Hilari Bell

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The long antennae-five feet long? six? And covered with what looked like very short fur-swept forward, quivering in the air over Ahvren's head. It took all his self-control to keep from stepping back. Then the antennae lifted away, without touching him, much to his relief. They remained cocked forward, but relaxed, oscillating slowly.

Strangers in a bizarre


The long antennae-five feet long? six? And covered with what looked like very short fur-swept forward, quivering in the air over Ahvren's head. It took all his self-control to keep from stepping back. Then the antennae lifted away, without touching him, much to his relief. They remained cocked forward, but relaxed, oscillating slowly.

Strangers in a bizarre land-that's what Ahvren's people, the Vivitare, are. They are the conquerors, the rulers now, of the T'Chin confederacy. But Ahvren is no longer sure what that means. After spending two years fighting a brutal war on another planet, here-where not a single shot was fired-victory doesn't seem quite so...victorious.

Ahvren welcomes the peace, but he doesn't fully trust it. How could all these people surrender so easily? Are they all cowards? Not likely. And his mistrust is not unwarranted: Rumors abound of a plot to assassinate the Vivitare emperor.

But Ahvren's disdain for war is even greater than his mistrust of peace. The last thing he wants is to rejoin the emperor's fleet and conquer the next planet. So he strikes a bargain with his father. If he can uncover the plot to assassinate the emperor, Ahvren can choose his own path. It's a challenge that will take more wits than strength, and Ahvren's not sure he's up for it. But it's also the most important test he's ever faced and his success is vital. For not only does the emperor's life depend on it, so does Ahvren's.

Editorial Reviews

To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, July 2001: Ahvren, an 18-year-old warrior, would just as soon never go to war again. A stint fighting aliens on another planet has left him shaken by the horrors he has seen, and he is now visiting with his family on the desert planet of T'Chin, trying to think of a way to serve his emperor without going into battle again. Meanwhile, there is a plot against the emperor, and Ahvren gets involved in trying to root out its source. He also wants to help his foster sister, who has been betrothed against her wishes to the nasty son of the emperor. In the course of his investigations, Ahvren partners up with a scholar, a native T'Chin who resembles a large insect and dispenses wisdom and pithy aphorisms, and he gradually comes to understand why the T'Chin didn't resist being conquered by Ahven's race. The T'Chins' guiding principle is "maximize profit," and Ahvren learns from the scholar how this can guide relationships and actions to everyone's advantage. The clever plot twists and turns, and there is a clear feminist message as well as some philosophical pondering on the meaning of conquest. Set in a Star Wars-like universe of fantastic creatures and thrilling derring do, this exciting story will enthrall readers who enjoy SF. It begs for a sequel, to follow the further adventures of brave Ahvren and his equally brave sister in this intriguing universe. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2002, HarperCollins, 361p.,
— Paula Rohrlick
The Vivitare, a race of humanoid warriors, conquer T'Chin, a polyglot planetary confederation of mammalian, reptilian, and insect species. Surprisingly, the T'Chin race put up no resistance and are soon colonized by the warlike Vivitare. Ahvren, the story's protagonist, is a young Vivitar warrior joining his family on T'Chin. He is looking forward to some relaxation on this peaceful colony before his next posting to a war zone, but he soon realizes that something is seriously wrong with his foster sister, Sabri. Sabri is betrothed to the son of the Vivitar emperor, but she is desperately unhappy about her upcoming marriage. She wants to be a warrior, a path forbidden to women in the restrictive and misogynist Vivitar society, and she feels trapped and hopeless. In addition to Ahvren's concerns about his sister are larger worries about a rumored plot to assassinate the emperor. Suddenly Ahvren has an inspiration. If he can track the rumor and find the assassins, the emperor will reward him with one wish, and his wish could be his sister's freedom from the detested engagement. Thus begins Ahvren's search for the would-be assassins of the emperor, which must be completed by his sister's wedding day one week hence and which yields a most unexpected result. Bell's book is well written and the story is told at an exciting pace. The various species inhabiting T'Chin—the reptilian Olopoli, the feline Grishik, and the antlike T'Chin—are described in vivid detail. This intelligent and suspenseful book would appeal to teens with a taste for science fiction, mystery, or espionage. PLB $15.89. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal withpushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, HarperCollins, 288p, $15.95. Ages 11 to 18. Reviewer: Vivian Howard
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-The Vivitare are warriors-at least, the men are. Women have little power. Ahvren, 18, is a decent fighter, but dreads the thought of heading off to conquer another planet, while his foster sister, Sabri, who would actually make a brilliant warrior, dreads the thought of marrying the emperor's heir, who is weak and abusive. Ahvren and his father make a wager. If Ahvren can figure out who is behind the plot to assassinate the emperor, he will have a year to figure out what he wants to do with his life. He will also, he thinks, be able to convince the emperor to stop the wedding. It doesn't seem that difficult-obviously members of the conquered T'Chin Confederation are behind the plot. But there is something strange about this group. All but one of its 40 planets simply surrendered to the Vivitare. They are cowards--or are they? And what is the real difference between an informagoth (one who sells information) and a bibliogoth (one who figures out what information is needed, where to get it, and how to organize it)? As Ahvren learns more about the various species who make up the T'Chin Confederation, he also learns more about himself and his own people. This is well-written, thought-provoking, and exciting science fiction. It's got cool weapons and weird aliens, but it's also got some meat to it. Fans of "Star Trek" will find it just to their taste.-Mara Alpert, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A weary young soldier in a future empire discovers that there's more than one way to conquer in this thought-provoking tale from the author of Songs of Power (2000). Thirty-nine of the T'Chin Confederacy's 40 planets have surrendered to the Vivitare without a fight, but helping to subdue the 40th has left Ahvren vowing to study war no more. Returning to his highborn family's new estate on T'Chin's bustling capitol planet, he hears rumors of a plot against the emperor, and puts off making a decision about his future by plunging into an investigation. As he discovers too late, the rumor is wrong; it's actually the emperor's callous son and heir Dravik who's the target-and the assassin is Ahvren's own beloved sister Sabri. Along the way, Ahvren makes connections with representatives of several alien species, and thanks to some gentle prodding from a 600-year-old, insectile librarian (a "Bibliogoth"), he slowly comes to realize that the Vivitare are only the latest in a long line of would-be conquerors, all of which were eventually assimilated into the prosperous, stable, commerce-oriented Confederacy. With help from his new nonhuman associates, he rescues Sabri from a slow, agonizing execution, and ultimately frees himself from some preconceptions too. The tone is earnest, with only Ahvren's odd compulsion to blurt out whatever he's thinking to serve as comic relief, but this suspense/adventure/coming-of-ager is absorbing, and features several simplified but interestingly distinct alien cultures. (Fiction. 11-13)

Product Details

Hilari Bell
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.61(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

We would have to tell his father. He couldn't tell his father.

Ahvren hoisted his three overstuffed gear bags and tried not to let his reluctance slow his feet as he boarded the shuttle that would take the spaceliner's passengers down to T'Chin. The voyage from Mirmanidan had lasted five interminable months. Ahvren was probably the only one aboard who wished it had been longer.

He might not even have a choice about telling his father. If the bizarre compulsion that had seized his tongue so often during the last few months overcame him, he'd blurt out the truth to Viv Saiden the moment he opened his mouth -- whether he wanted to or not.Hello, Father, I realize that this will disgrace our family, perhaps even end our line if I'm declared unfit, but I just can't help them conquer anyone else . . .

When had his own people become them?

Ahvren dropped his bags onto the seat beside him. The shuttle wasn't so crowded that he had to leave room, and he was in no mood to make idle conversation. After all these months in space, he should be accustomed to recycled air, but it still smelled stale and dead. It would be good to be on a planet again. A planet where there was no war.Maybe all he needed was rest. Rest on a world that wasn't engulfed in violence -- where it was safe to wear a sword instead of the disrupter whose weight had become so familiar on his belt over these last bloodstained years.

Ahvren opened his eyes and looked out the viewport. The brown-and-green sprawl of T'Chin's largest continent loomed below. T'Chin had a wide range of ecosystems, but its principal city, K'Moth, lay in a desert at the edge of one of theplanet's three seas. Not the best climate, but K'Moth had the only spaceport large enough for the shield fleet's auxiliaries, so Emperor Lessar -- and Ahvren's father who served him -- had settled there. Most of the shield fleet, like the ship Ahvren had traveled in, wasn't built for atmosphere.

By now Ahvren could make out the river that bisected K'Moth like a curved blade lying on a rough brown sack. The sea must be on the shuttle's other side.

Ahvren had paid little heed to his family's messages, except to be grateful that the people he cared most about were trailing after the shield fleet instead of being where he was. Everyone knew that the fleet had found and conquered something called the T'Chin Empire, though it wasn't an empire but something the linguists translated as "confederation." There were forty planets in the T'Chin Confederation, each inhabited by a different sentient species. All the planets traded with one another. All the species traveled freely from world to world and lived on whatever planet they chose, atmosphere and climate permitting. And all but one of them had surrendered to the Vivitare without a fight. Ahvren's lip curled in contempt. At least the Mirmani had courage -- for all the good it had done them.

K'Moth was the largest city on the planet T'Chin, for which this whole chaotic-sounding mess had been named. His family had lived there for almost a year now, and they all said it was fine -- except for his mother, who complained about the heat. His father and Sabri never mentioned weather.

His parents were still fine, but just six months ago, Sabri's face had appeared on Ahvren's message screen.

"Hello, heart-sib." She was smiling, but a note of stress in her voice had arrested Ahvren's attention. Her long-boned face, framed in wings of flaming hair, looked the same. Or was there something . . . controlled in her expression? Ahvren wasn't sure.

"We heard about your victory -- congratulations! You always did get all the fun."

She grinned, but Ahvren grimaced. Sabri really would have enjoyed it. Such a pity, such a waste, she'd been born a girl.

"Actually, heart-sib, I'm missing you."

Ahvren straightened, staring at his foster sister's face -- if Sabri had ever said she missed him, he couldn't remember it.

"I really wish you were here." She'd tried to sound casual, but the intensity in her eyes crept into her voice -- it quivered. Then she glanced over her shoulder, looking for all the world as if someone Ahvren couldn't see was listening to her, and burst into aimless chatter -- very unlike her usual crisp directness.

Ahvren was halfway out the door before the echo of her farewell died. It was a parent's right to monitor a daughter's messages, but if someone was controlling what Sabri said to him, there was something very strange going on.

The shuttle's engine began to whine, and drab brown buildings, a city, took shape below. Sabri had saved him. With the Mirmani rebellion crushed, his service oath for that campaign had ended. His commander was becoming more and more impatient for him to swear himself to the next one, but urgent family business was a perfect excuse to leave. And of course he couldn't renew his service oath until that business was resolved. He hadn't even had to lie. Yes, Sabri had saved him; now it was up to him to help her. And then himself. If he could. If he could keep the truth from his father.

The engine's whine swelled to a shriek, and Ahvren's stomach lifted. They touched down with a bump. Wrestling his gear bags down the aisle, Ahvren wasn't even thinking about the strange planet until he stepped through the door and a wave of heat slapped him like a giant palm.

"Shackles! Is it always this hot?"

"Yes." The shuttle attendant grinned. "Enjoy your stay...

Meet the Author

Hilari Bell used to work as a reference librarian, but she now writes science fiction and fantasy for kids and teens from her home base in Denver, Colorado.Hilari’s favorite activity is camping, when she spends all her time reading and hiking. She says, “Camping is the only time I can get in enough reading. Well, I take that back—when it comes to reading, there’s no such thing as enough.”

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A Matter of Profit 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Up until this point, I had found these free books very disappointing--this one, however, truly broke the mold! It's a great book with an engaging plot and a deeper, philosophal meaning as well. If you're just looking for an entertaining plotline filled with plotturns and twists elegantly woven into the story, it's great for that too! And unlike most other free books, there are no grammatical errors that distract from the story!! The only problem some people might have with it is the diverse range of creatures- readers of fantasy world books will have no problem, and if you aren't used to that sort of thing, everything is explained perfectly in the book. A must read with a brillant (and satisfying) ending!
Guest More than 1 year ago
usually i dont read at all but i just found this book in the library and i just couldn't stop reading it
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book!!! It was so interesting!! I loved how the story came together. I couldnt put it down!!! I highly recommend it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its refreshing to find a free book that is worth the time to read.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not my favorite book by Hiliari Bell, but amazingly good none the less (which just shows how much I liked her other books). Sci-fi and thrilling, A Matter of Profit is a book I would definitly recomend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book started out pretty good, but then it dragged on and on and I just couldn't understand where the story was really going. I wouldn't suggest the book, but if you like to read the first chapters and then stop, hey, go ahead.