C. J. Cherryh
Things heat up even further, and the revelations in this one serve to put the coup attempt in "Precusor" as well as the larger behavior of the Phoenix in a lot more context. This one reminded me a lot of the revelation in Cyteen of the Gehenna project, although things play out a lot more quickly and decisively in this case. As a disclosure driving the plot it's surprisingly effective, and the speculations at the end that Tabini might be a genuine menace are quite well done. Each volume of the series seems to add more complexity and effective unfolding of the setting. At this volume the stuff with Bren's family starts to grate a bit, and there are a couple things about the deathbead confession that seem a little implausible. At points one can see the author moving in the text to push thngs along, and even while the revelations shed some effect light on the space-born side of things the actual manner in which information is shared seems a bit strained. However, overall another improvement for the series, and shows an admirable amount of momentum and interest for the middle volume of a trilogy and fifth volume of a series.
Better than: The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks
Worse than: Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks