Heinlein here has moved outward from Earth, to a full intergalactic dispersal of Earth's inhabitants among multiple political groupings - from an Earth 'hegemony' to a slave trading Empire. The story follows Thorby, captured by slavers at a very young age, mistreated continually until bought by a beggar with complex secrets, who raises him to be a pillar of honesty and intellectual endeavour.The strongest section of the book is the beginning, where we are thrown deeply into Thorby's situation. There is some loss of traction in the middle section of the story, when Thorby joins a space-trading 'clan', and the resolution of the tale is pretty much dogged endurance of legal battles and right-feeling caution while sticking to one's guns, ultimately leading to the importance of living up to the responsibility of one's lot in life. It's not a bad story, but doesn't live up to the power of its opening.Character voice is also rather odd. This slave boy raised in the far future, experiencing multiple cultures, speaks with the Oh Shucks, Gee Whiz of a stereotypical Iowa farmboy.The treatment of women has improved in that we now have more of a range presented, from a 'wise old anthropologist' to girls who can do mathematics, to a level-headed socialite. There's still a handful of dismissive statements about the incapability of girls, but they are shown being competent repeatedly. They're also shown as primarily adjuncts to men, their purpose in life revolving around 'catching' and then supporting a suitable husband.