Pyanfar Chanur ended up in the middle of a feud between two hakkikts, two leaders of the kif species. The result is that her niece Hilfy and the human Tully were taken hostage and her number one priority is rescue them. It’s just the latest problem for the captain of the space freighter “The Pride of Chanur”, less and less engaged in trade and more and more in political problems.
The only relief reason for Pyanfar Chanur is the fact that her husband Khym is no longer a fish out of water on the starship and on the contrary is more comfortable in political clashes being used to them after having lived many on the planet Anuurn. Any help is very welcome for Pyanfar Chanur because she made enemies among the hani and is forced to accept alliances among the kif.
The Chanur series belongs to the fictional universe created by C.J. Cherryh called the Universe of the Alliance-Union universe in which many stories written by the author are set. It’s set in an area of space far from the planets protagonists of other stories so it can be read completely autonomously.
“The Kif Strike Back” take up the story where “Chanur’s Venture” ended with Pyanfar Chanur and her crew increasingly embroiled in the clashes among the interests of the various species of the Compact following the contact with humans. In particular, they have become pawns in the internal feud between the treacherous kif, an extremely dangerous situation.
“Chanur’s Venture” ended in a moment of crisis, with Hilfy and Tully taken hostage by the kif. The priority for Pyanfar Chanur is to save them but her actions must be based on assumptions about friends and enemies with all the nuances that are in between. For her and for her crew the situation seems to become more and more complicated because she often doesn’t know what are the agendas and the interests of her contacts so she doesn’t know who she can trust.
From the beginning, the Chanur series was much more of an adventure among the stars and in “The The Kif Strike Back” the political factor becomes crucial. The conflict doesn’t simply concern the desire to open or not trades with humans because the internal feud among the kif shows that there are factions even within the same species that have different agendas.
The situation for Pyanfar Chanur is made even more complicated by the hani’s internal politics because of a faction that considers scandalous her decision to save her husband Khym taking him with her into space. Even in this case the economic and political interests are important to understand the various factions.
“The Kif Strike Back” is certainly an action novel where there are shootouts but tension also comes from Pyanfar Chanur’s attempts to handle herself within relationships with contacts of various species that are often ambiguous and sometimes difficult to understand. The various species are really alien for each other and misunderstanding problems can create situations as dangerous as the manipulation attempts made by some character.
A good part of the novel consists of dialogues among various characters who are often agitated, which helps to keep a fast pace. The protagonists were introduced and developed in the previous novels but the latest experiences have changed some of them.
Khym is the first male hani to travel into space and initially he needed to be kept under control but after some time he started understanding the situation around him and started becoming really useful. Hilfy is a young hani who was initially very enthusiastic and in some ways naive but the difficult experiences hardened her.
I think that “The Kif Strike Back” continues the series maintaining the very good quality of the previous novels. In this case there’s a sort of ending but leaves many plot elements open to be continued in the next novel. This novel was written having in mind from the beginning a trilogy that is in turn the sequel to the first novel so I recommended getting all the Chanur series.