Intruder, by C.J. Cherryh
Intruder is the 13th book in the Foreigner universe. C.J. Cherryh is an award-winning author of many science fiction and fantasy books. This is a good place to jump into the series, which began with Foreigner. Humans landed 150 years ago on an occupied world, and now live on the island continent of Mospheira, while the native Atevi occupy the mainland. Atevi are very tall, traditional, and concerned with numbers, manners, and alliances. Bren Cameron is the paidhi-aiji, or human interpreter and ambassador, gradually releasing to the native Atevi advanced human technology. He is allied with the Atevi ruler, the aiji Tabini. Tabini’s powerful grandmother Ilisidi sends Bren on a diplomatic mission to the new lord of the Marid, young Machigi. The Marid, a rural, conservative group, are offered alliances, new communications technology, and the possibility of trade, especially in their fine porcelain. But knowing who to trust can be very difficult with the Atevi. Ilisidi once tried to poison Bren, for example.
Meanwhile, from a different perspective, Tabini’s young son Cajeiri is feeling restricted in a high-security apartment with no windows in his rooms. When his father gives permission for Cajeiri to visit the family storerooms and decorate his suite, he opts for tapestries with animals, lots of green plants, and a large brass cage that could house a monkey-like pet called a parid’ja. Unfortunately, he doesn’t ask his pregnant mother before acquiring the pet he names Boji. Cajeiri enjoys spending time with Bren, his great-grandmother, and getting into mischief.
This book is mostly about politics and diplomacy, and about Cajeiri’s gradual coming of age. Other books in the series have more action and danger, on the planet and in space, but all are excellent reading. The Atevi are just alien enough to be fascinating and the reader never knows just what will happen next.