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At the start of the stirring ninth entry in Cherryh's much praised Foreigner series (after 2006's Pretender), the atevi ruler Tabini has thwarted an attempt to overthrow him, though the usurper, Murini, has not yet been captured. Things appear to have settled back into routine, except for the hijinks of Cajeiri, Tabini's young heir, who has grown used to the liberties allowed a human child but not the heir to atevi rule. Then Cajeiri disappears and a troublesome Eastern lord is suspected of kidnapping him. Murini may also be involved. Human translator and diplomat Bren Cameron, along with the elderly but indomitable atevi matriarch Ilisidi and their deadly servants from the Assassins' Guild, must set off cross country in the dead of winter to attempt a rescue, while Cajeiri must prove that he is indeed worthy to be Tabini's heir. As always, Cherryh alternates complex political maneuvering with pell-mell action sequences in an intensely character-driven SF novel sure to appeal to the many fans of this series. (Feb.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.