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on 24 October 2003
I have enjoyed Marion’s Darkover series for many years, and this book is a good addition to the set.
Set during the Hundred Kingdom period, before the Compact of Varzil the Good, this nicely fills in some of the details about this heretofore only briefly sketched period. Here the Towers are under compulsion to produce laran weapons for the comyn Lords they are allied with, from clingfire to bone-dust, weapons of such great destructive potential they frighten all sane persons. Strong parallels are drawn between these weapons and our own nuclear arsenal, and the policy of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) gets some critical looks.
The story line itself is centered around four individuals: Coryn, a Keeper in Training, Taniel, Queen of one of the smaller holdings, Damian, a comyn lord with visions of uniting all of Darkover under his rule, and Rumiel, Damian’s brother, a trained laranzu who is obsessed with being able to control his own tower circle. Coryn and Taniel are very well drawn, believable, and emotionally engaging. Damian and Rumiel are less so, with little real depth and apparently live just to be convenient enemies.
Though the general feeling of this book is highly reminiscent of Bradley's methods and style, there are places where Ross' own style shows, most obviously in her descriptive work, especially when describing things like halls and meals, as she has a tendency to paint these items in much greater detail than Bradley. This is not necessarily a negative, as it can provide a better 'picture' of the world of Darkover, but long-time Bradley readers may be a little surprised. But disappointing to me was the actual Hundred Kingdom world that is portrayed. From many of the other works in this series, I had the distinct impression that this period had a much higher technological level than what is shown. Indeed, the society here is still feudal, mainly middle age technology, with the only obvious difference being the willingness to use some of the most dangerous products of laran gifts, and only a short glimpse into the world of actually building and using high level matrices.
Although this work approaches an important theme with high resonance to our world of today, in the end I was left with the feeling that this was a very good adventure story in the classic mode of other Darkover books, but has little more to offer. Still, an enjoyable read, and there are still a couple more books to come in this cycle.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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on 13 July 2006
Although the cover and internal notes imply that this is a collaboration, it's not. Many readers will probably be aware of this, but some may not be: MZB is dead, I'm sad to say, and has been for quite some time. She died September 25, 1999, of a heart attack.

This trilogy is actually written into her world by Deborah Ross; if there was any original MZB material whatsoever included in these books, the deliberate attempt by DAW to make it look as though MZB was actually involved in writing it doesn't let us know that.

While I think the books are pretty good and mostly hold true to the Darkover mythos, I find it downright dishonest that the cover names MZB as if she was an active co-author, and I would appreciate it if Amazon were to highlight this in their descriptive notes.
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on 1 December 2001
I enjoyed this return to the era when the towers were powerful, and the fall of Neskaya story told. I thought the story credible, within the world of Darkover, and the characterisation more rounded than is usual with MZB on her own. If this is the result of collaboration with Deborah Ross it is an improvement, as is the pace of the tale which does not feel padded out with divertions and description. The relationship between Coryn and Taniquiel is compelling, as is the debate within the tale about the use of power. I liked the hints of continuing problems, presumably for another tale, that did not detract from the completeness of this story. A good read.
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on 8 November 2002
Do NOT understand the reaction of the reader from France. The beauty of Darkover has always been for me the blending of the strong characters, the historical fantasy Darkover of the Ages of Chaos and the Hundred Kingdoms, and the more 'modern' intervention of the scientific terran influence. This tale was set in the fantasy eras of Darkover and, for me, answered a lot of questions and made many later references much clearer. It may not be the best of the 'series' but with a group of stories of the quality of the Darkover books, the 4 stars I've given it would be around 7/5 for most authors works
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on 10 November 2002
I have just finished reading this book and I enjoyed the read very much. The story about the fall of Neskaya Tower brought about by the misuse of Laren and the greed of a violent man is well told, the characters come over well. I look forward to reading the follow on.
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on 19 June 2003
As always when reading an eagerly awaited further chapter of the darkover saga I held my breath for at least two pages in case it didn't live up to expectations. Breath again, new characters, fresh adventurers and a new and deadly villin with mind bending abilities to fight and defeat and as always a neat twist at the end leaving us wanting to continue with the next instalment. I find that if I try to go more deeply into the plot I will spoil it for others suffice it to say You will enjoy it and come back for more
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on 4 October 2014
Enjoyable continuation of the Darkover themes
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on 14 October 2002
I doubt that anyone, with the posible exception of Robert Silverberg and his wonderful planet Majipoor has created such a delightful and indeed credible world as Darkover. It is a pity then that after so many exciting books this one seems to lack the action and excitement to keep the reader turning the pages. The characters of Taniquel and Coryn are believable and their interaction is well portrayed but really apart from this there is not much to hold the reader's attention for long periods.
And another aspect, although I know many MZB fans will disagree with this - where is the science? It is Science fiction after all, some 'information dumping' might add interest to the Darkover novels and perhaps more explanation of the planet's geography and other physical characteristics. For example we are given a picture of a planet which is clearly a lot colder than earth yet with a people who flavour their food with the tropical fruit cinnamon! Tell the story by all means but let's have some credible climatology.
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on 22 March 2015
Good book
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