Brother to Shadows (1999) is a singleton SF novel in the Andre Norton universe. It has the usual worlds, weapons and species, but otherwise is not connected to any series. It starts on Asborgan, but soon moves offworld.
In this novel, Jofre is an offworld human who was found as an infant within a lifeboat. The Master trained him as Shadow brother. The issha are bodyguards and assassins for hire.
Zurzal is a Histechneer of the Zacathans. He is on a quest that has caused him to be expelled from his clan. He has a time scanner that can provide information on Forerunner ruins.
Taynad is an Asborgan female who has been trained as a Shadow sister. She is given a mission offworld on Tseek.
Yan is a Jat, a creature that appears nonsentient, but has some powers of communication. It emits calming emotions and occasional visual images.
In this story, the force stone has died and the Lair is no more. The Shagga priest declares that the Master has done his duty and gives permission for the Right and Left Hands to follow their Master. But the priest refuses to let the younger issha commit suicide.
He sends these youngsters to other Lairs, but he outlaws Jofre and refuses him weapons. Yet Jofre asserts his traveler's rights. Jofre leaves the Lair with a very small pack into risky weather.
Jofre takes the shortest route to the plains. He intends to follow the plan of his Master and find work among the offworlders. But the trip to the spaceport will take ten days.
In the pass, Jofre notices a landslide and walls in the heights. It is another closed Lair. He stays there during the snowstorm.
He finds a stave near the Lair and a black stone within. It is warm to the touch and feels like a force stone. He wants to throw it away, but his arm and hand put it in his sash against his will.
Meanwhile, the Shagga priest has sent a bird to follow him. When it reports back, he sends a farflyer to an agent within the port. Yet other events nullify the attempts to assassinate Jofre.
When Jofre reaches the slums near the spaceport area, he hears a fight in an alley. He feels compelled to intervene. Three men are attacking another, so he breaks one man's collarbone.
The other two are downed with a stunner. The attacked person is not a man, but a scaled lizard-like creature. It introduces itself as Zurzal and offers him a position.
Later Zurzal takes Jofre back to the slums to locate a man with vital coordinates. Then they go offplanet on Zurzal's quest. On Wayright, Zurzal retrieves his time scanner and they wait for transport to Lochan.
This tale brings others into the game, including the Holder of Tseek. Jofre learns that offworlders have weapons that can kill or paralyze him at a distance. Taynad wonders what another issha is doing on her mission.
The plot is well written and interesting, but only Jofre -- the main character -- is fully fleshed in the first half of the story. Other characters -- Zurzal, Taynad and Yan -- come up to her usual standards within the last half.
This volume is not one of the author's major works and does not have a sequel. Yet it is very similar to The Zero Stone, Moon of Three Rings and other of her works.
Jofre and Zurzal win through in the end. This story is also included in the omnibus Ice and Shadow.
Highly recommended for Norton fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of other worlds, advanced technologies, and a bit of romance. Read and enjoy!
-Arthur W. Jordin