You should judge any book as a stand-alone work, and by that measure "Deceiver" is probably perplexing. It is the eleventh volume in an audacious collection that tells the story of a small, stranded human colony on a very foreign world. While the humans can breathe the air, much of the native flora and fauna is toxic. Even more troubling, the planet is already populated by a physically larger, more powerful, and very intelligent race, the Atevi. And for -- so far -- eleven novels, author C.J. Cherryh takes the reader on a complex, wild ride through war, revolution, corruption, intrigue, accommodation, misunderstanding, reconciliation, culture clash, and a great many other themes. Taken as a whole, the series is one of the finest works of literature in the past 25 years.
In short, you can't really understand "Deceiver" without reading the ten previous novels. By itself, it is about a human regional lord, but he is the alien, and lord over entirely Atevi inhabitants of his small realm. His power as a lord is provided entirely through the natives, and is subject to the very complex overlapping loyalties of those natives. As a human, he has almost no power at all; his task is to figure out how best to be a regional lord of the Atevi, and to keep their conflicting needs, desires and loyalties from erupting into a planetary war.
On the other hand, if you read "Deceiver" as being the latest chapter in a very, very long novel, rather than as a stand-alone work, it is a gem: a transitional chapter taking the main character, Bren Cameron, from being a vital, but peripheral member of the court of the ruling Aiji (in essence, planetary ruler) and turning him into a human who can, for the first time, take an independent role in the politics of the planet. It is a big, fat, juicy stage setting for the twelfth novel, and like any fan of Cherryh's intensely intimate third-person narrative style, I felt "Deceiver" was around 500 pages too short. As readers, we don't know what happens next, but we do know that it will change the world. And we want that twelfth novel NOW.
Oh, yeah: in addition to the lost humans, now with their independent island colony separated by treaty from the planet's natives, and the Atevi superpower that dominates the rest of the planet, the story has an off-stage component. The entire human-Atevi civilization is under threat from two alien species, one a powerful, possible ally against a second, even more powerful and decidedly malignant race. Add in the complex, very un-human Atevi language, and you have a tapestry vaster than "Lord of the Rings."
Did I mention that I want the twelfth volume right now? While you wait for that, read "Deceiver," plus its prequels: Foreigner, Invader, Inheritor, Precursor, Defender, Explorer, Destroyer, Pretender, Deliverer, and Conspirator.