This one is slower than the first two novels in the Wayfarers series. We spend most of the book on the Asteria, one of the ships in the Exodan Fleet, following the characters of Tessa, a (often single) mother of two; Isabel, an Archivist; Eyas, a Caretaker (of the dead); Kip, a teen who just wants to leave the Fleet; and Sawyer, who wasn’t born in the Fleet but is looking for a different way of life. The timeframe for the novel is primarily set during a period of several months in which a Harmagian ethnographer (Ghuh’loloan) is a guest of Isabel’s. She is visiting the Fleet to learn more about it, and each section of the novel begins with a description of her observations of the Fleet, and Humanity in general.
Because it’s slower, I didn’t find it as gripping as the first two books. It’s even more character-driven than the others, so you have to really be invested, or at least interested, in the characters’ lives. My interest in the characters fluctuated. At times I was more interested in Tessa, probably because I’m also the mom of a toddler. Other times I was more interested in Eyas’s internal journey. We spend the least amount of time with Sawyer, and while he’s clearly not making wise decisions, I wasn’t prepared for the sad way his story ended. However, it did lead to some of the other characters make some changes in their own lives.
I was particularly interested in the Ghuh’loloan’s observations of the Fleet and reflections on Humanity. These sections provided an interesting cultural perspective and situated humans within the broader Galactic Commons. At time this could be viewed as unflattering (what have humans given back to the GC?), but Ghuh’loloan tempers that somewhat by talking about how much Harmagians took from other species before the GC was formed.