4 out of 5 stars.
I received an ARC of this work.
This is a rewrite of The Wild Swans done as science fiction, and I found it absolutely delightful. It has enough of the original in it to be clever and enough world building to stand alone as a non-rewrite. Liddi has a ton of older brothers, but her parents chose her to inherit the family company. It actually isn’t going too badly (though the constant media attention is annoying) until one of the higher ups in the company decides to trap her brothers in the interplanetary warp tunnels and bugs Liddi’s throat with a bomb that will kill her brothers if she talks. (The author cleverly takes care of the “why doesn’t she does write things down??” question. Their society has evolved past the need for written language). Liddi escapes through a warp tunnel but lands on a planet she never knew existed, populated by humans and alien species. Liddi goes from an interplanetary celebrity to a mute unknown, relying on the kindness of strangers for everything.
Liddi is initially a very shy, uncertain character. She has been overshadowed all of her life by her brilliant brothers, and the expectations that are placed on her as the head of a huge company weigh heavily. She really starts to grow when her brothers need her and she no longer has to act like a celebrity.
The main storyline is interrupted at the end of each chapter with a little story from Liddi’s childhood, showing how she came to be the person she is when we meet her. It was an aspect of the book I loved. Suddenly the character does not spring fully formed out of the earth, but is moulded by the people around her and her upbringing.
The best part of the book for me was the characters trying to solve the problem of communicating with someone who is nonverbal and does not know any written language. Since modern culture is so dependant on written language for everything it is a neat mental exercise to think of how you would deal with a person who has neither of our primary modes of communication.
Liddi also runs into trouble with the local culture and religion when it turns out the warp tunnels are not what she suspected. It would be nice to be able to trust someone with the truth of her position, but all of her history has taught her she cannot trust anyone but her family.
This was a very inventive and enjoyable retelling. Please take a read when you have the chance.