Peacemaker by C. J. Cherryh (Daw Books, 2013).
Reading this book was a reminder of the importance of starting with the first book of a long series. This was number 15 of the Foreigner science fiction series by C. J. Cherryh, and it was almost incomprehensible. The reviews on the back cover indicated that this is one of the best of an excellent author’s many novels, but I still shouldn’t have started with it. I should have began (at the very least) with the historical background provided at the end, but since I didn’t know it was there, I didn’t read it until after I finished. There is no map provided of the alien planet, which would have been extremely helpful for reference. The natives of the planet had a very formal, quasi-Japanese culture in which all the names sound similar and alien honorifics are thrown in without explanation. It was interesting to see the politics of an alien culture from both the perspective of a native child and from the perspective of a human diplomat, but the politics were very complex and heavily dependent on remembering confusing names and clan affiliations.