From the back cover:
For nearly a decade Garak has longed for just one thing—to go home. Exiled on a space station, surrounded by aliens who loathe and distrust him, going back to Cardassia has been Garak’s one dream. Now, finally, he is home. But home is a world whose landscape is filled with death and destruction. Desperation and dust are constant companions and luxury is a glass of clean water and a warm place to sleep.
Ironically, it is a letter from one of the aliens on that space station, Dr. Julian Bashir, that inspires Garak to look at the fabric of his life. Elim Garak has been a student, a gardener, a spy, an exile, a tailor, even a liberator. It is a life that was charted by the forces of Cardassian society with very little understanding of the person, and even less compassion.
But it is the tailor that understands who Elim Garak was, and what he could be. It is the tailor who sees the ruined fabric of Cardassia, and who knows how to bring this ravaged society back together. This is strange, because a tailor is the one thing Garak never wanted to be. But it is the tailor whom both Cardassia and Elim Garak need. It is the tailor who can put the pieces together, who can take a stitch in time.
I haven’t much experience in the realm of Star Trek novels, but this strikes me as a particularly ambitious one. It succeeds in some areas, not so much in others, but ultimately offers a generally plausible background for Garak, filling in some of the questions about his past, his character, and his outlook. Some of the subplots were a little clunky; I think one existed only so Garak could give another story about a shuttle incident discussed on the show.
I liked best the parts about his school and the eventual consequences of relationships forged there. The author avoided having Garak meet characters from the series while in school, giving him original characters as important influences and factors in his life, which I appreciated. How all these things tie in with his position as DS9’s “plain and simple tailor” was also pretty neat.
The not so great… Some of Garak’s school exploits are a little bit twinky, such as learning valuable Wilderness (always capitalized) skills from a lizard. No, really. Also, sometimes the writing got to be rather repetitive, like Robinson found a favorite word to describe something and kept reusing it over and over (example: sartorial).
All things considered, I waffle regarding actually giving it a recommendation. To a select audience, perhaps, and one who has recently seen all of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and is therefore more likely to understand/remember the various references.