Truly conflicted characters are somewhat rare in the world of science fiction and fantasy. Eduin Deslucido is such a character, the centerpiece of this trilogy. Saddled with an impossible compulsion by his father to revenge his family by killing all the Hasturs, Eduin, whose basic nature is actually that of a responsible, caring, and loving man, finds himself allied with a wild laran talent in the body of Saravio, both for the surcease from the agony his compulsion causes and as a tool to further his plans for eliminating Carolin Hastur and Varzil Ridenow, whom Eduin sees as the man responsible for keeping Carolin in power.
Eduin concocts a couple of schemes to bring Varzil into an undefended position, but when it comes to actually accomplishing his goal, Eduin is shown to be a man of extreme determination and, somewhat as a surprise even to himself, a man of ideals that are diametrically opposed to the mindless revenge desired by his father. His one and only former love, Dyannis, Varzil's sister, in training as a Keeper (at a time when female Keepers were thought impossible - a nice irony to modern Darkover when the exact reverse is thought to be true), becomes an intriguing character in her own right as she struggles to discipline her own talents and, after seeing the consequences of unrestricted laran warfare, a strong supporter of Varzil's Compact to ban the use of such weapons.
The characterization of Eduin and Dyannis is excellent and is the major driver of this book. These characters have more depth than is typical for most fantasy, and their inner turmoil is believable and leads directly to much of the action. However, the plot is, compared to other Darkover books, perhaps a little weak and certain elements of the end situation feel like they were pulled out of the hat, not fully melded with the rest of the story. Although this detracts from the overall power of the book, this failing is not major.
Thematically, this book continues those themes that have shown up in many of the Darkover stories: the right to self-determination, especially for women; personal integrity; the madness of war; sacrifice of the individual to further a larger goal for all. The final scene of this book does much to make the reader understand just how the Compact came to be accepted and adhered to throughout the centuries between this book's time and modern Darkover, and closes the Clingfire trilogy nicely. The nations of today could do far worse than subscribe to a similar Compact; perhaps if they did everyone could have a sounder sleep.
---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)