Hilfy Chanur is the captain of the merchant ship “Chanur’s Legacy” and, together with her crew, she arrived at Meetpoint station to trade. The stationmaster is a stsho who offers Hilfy a considerable sum to transport an oji, some kind of cultural artifact, to the shsho ambassador at Urtur station. The offer seems too good to be true but it’s also too good to be rejected so Hilfy accepts despite the suspicion that there’s a catch.
During her journey, Hilfy has to take a stsho guardian for the object she’s transporting aboard her ship but she ends up rescuing Hallan Meras, a young hani, a male, who ended up in the station jail following a brawl he barely has any memory of and left there by his captain. These are just the first complications of a journey that will be full of traps.
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.
In the previous four novels of the Chanur series, C.J. Cherryh told the complicated adventures of the crew of the merchant ship “The Pride of Chanur”, commanded by Pyanfar Chanur, and their consequences on the entire Compact. In the end, Pyanfar succeeded in obtaining a new treaty that brought a new phase of stability with peace among the species of the Compact becoming its president. In those novels, her niece Hilfy is initially an inexperienced girl who learns a lot over time, often the hard way. Some years later, Hilfy becomes the captain of a new ship, “Chanur’s Legacy”.
Years have passed between the previous novels and “Chanur’s Legacy” and the characters of this last novel are almost all new so it’s autonomous, however having already read the previous ones provides a much more complete idea about the species of the Compact and their complex relationships. Pyanfar Chanur doesn’t appear but her presence is continually felt due to the many references to her and because Hilfy remembers arguments she had with her aunt. That relationship is often a burden for Hilfy because she often meets someone who’s looking for favors from Pyalfar hoping to get them through Hilfy.
Having become the captain of a merchant ship, Hilfy tries to get out of her aunt’s bulky shadow by doing business on her own. Part of the novel explores similarities and differences with Pyanfar: Hilfy learned trading from her aunt but her relationship with her is complicated so if she has to make difficult decisions, thinking about what Pyanfar would do is just one of the options.
Part of the novel is told from the point of view of Hallan Meras. Pyanfar Chanur broke with the hani traditions that required leave males out of ships crews opening the doors to others but it’s a strong tradition. Hallan is a boy in his first experiences in space when he ends up involved in a brawl with kifs at Meetpoint station, where he gets uncerimoniously abandoned by his captain. When Hilfy is notified of his situation, she’s reluctant to take charge of the boy but in the end she agrees to have him temporarily on her ship even though at first he always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In this novel the stakes are not as great as in the previous novels of the series but C.J. Cherryh still creates a complex plot that goes beyond a simple adventurous space opera with a new intrigue that involves characters from different species: particularly stsho, with a lot of new information about them, but also mahendo’sat and some treacherous kifs. Overall, “Chanur’s Legacy” seems to me a good novel that still offers something interesting especially for fans of the Chanur series that I recommend to read completely.