Anharitte is the port city on a feudal planet whose location makes it an important hub in interstellar commerce. The Free Traders’ local agent, Tito Ren, is charged with ensuring that things run smoothly. Alas for Ren, a powerful wizard is educating his slaves well beyond what is needed for them to do their tasks, and it’s clear that the wizard is intent on brewing exactly the sort of social disruption that could cause trouble for trade. It’s also clear to Ren that the wizard is no wizard, but an import like himself, using advanced technology to create his magic. Proving this to the local authorities is another matter, and Ren embarks on a little local war with the Imaiz, a careful balancing act that he keeps within the accepted practices of the society he’s working within. Ren’s problem is that he finds himself ever more in sympathy with the Imaiz’s goals, while still wanting to keep faith with his employers.
It’s a short novel by current standards, but there’s plenty packed into it, from the entertainment of the cat-and-mouse game, to the careful description of Anharrite’s culture, to the depiction of Ren’s growing moral quandary. This is one of the books I happily re-read every so often.