on 4 June 2004
This is the 6th novel that Robert Silverberg has written about the fantasticaly large world called Majipoor.
The Majipoor stories are set in the far future on a huge planet populated by humans, aliens and strange indiginous creatues called shapesifters.
The society is almost medieval with lords and ladies holding court over a vast populace. Technology is around in the background, but metals are very scarce an dthere is no industrialisation to speak of, so it plays little part in the stories.
There is one world wide government a non hereditary double Monarchy. The Pontifex is the 'High King' but rules via a civil service and is based deep underground in 'The Labyrinth'. The exectuve arm (as it were) is the Coronal, who lives in a Castle on top the highest mountain on Majipoor. When the Pontifex dies, the Coronal takes his place and appoints a new Coronal from among the courts princes.
In this story (the 2nd in the Prestimion trilogy), we find Lord Pretimion (the Coronal) dealing with the aftermath of the 'sorcery' conducted at the end of the previous novel. In an attempt to erase the horrors of war from the collective minds of the populace, Prestimion seems to have created a new crisis in which many of the population are going mad. In addition, his arch enemy Dantarya Sambail is on the loose and poses a new threat to Prestimions reign as Coronal.
As with most of Robert Silverbergs work, the writing is impecccable and entrancing, though the pacing of the story in the first half of the book was perhaps a little slow.
My only serious criticism of this and other Majipoor novels is that despite the supposed vastness of this world, it never seems to feel that big. Perhaps its because there are only 4 major land masses, though the smallest of which (The Isle of Sleep) is large enough to contain all of the planet Earth. The characters mention it, but as a concept it just doesn't come to life.
on 14 December 2005
I have to be honest and say that I didn't purchase this book through Amazon. As a result, the main fault, with this edition at least, may not be entirely relevent here - it wasn't entirely clear from the cover that this novel is in fact the middle book of a trilogy. This is probably only a problem for someone like me who likes to read the books in the right order. The entire plot of the previous book is explained since it has a direct impact upon the plot of the current book. This has a slightly detrimental effect upon the book, however, since it slows even further the pace of a book that is for the most slow anyway. The book reads something like a travelogue with the fantastic description of this alien/familiar world dominating over the plot and to a certain extent the characterisation. A must for previous vistors to Majipoor, but certainly not as good as Lord Valentine's Castle, the first and best of the Majipoor Chronicles.