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The Children of Kings
by Marion Zimmer Bradley & Deborah J. Ross
Daw, $24.95, 375pp
Release Date: March 5, 2013
This is the latest in the Darkover franchise inherited by Ms. Ross. While I love Darkover, it’s really not the same as when MZB was at the helm. Much the same as when Anne McCaffrey’s son took over, the stories are immature. But I actually have high hopes; I see promise in Deborah Ross’ stories. I think she will continue to mature and the stories will get better and better. And I, for one, am grateful that Darkover lives on.

This story centers around two children of kings: Gareth, the Heir to Elhalyn, Regis Hastur’s grandson, and Kierestelli, Regis’ daughter with Linnea. Both are lost to their families and wounded in their souls.

This was a wonderfully complex plot that wove under and over. Gareth chafes over his dull, parasitic life – his characterization. As Heir but not King, he has nothing to do except avoid marriage proposals and intrigues for political favor. He longs to be taken seriously and do something brave and dashing; day-dreaming of being a heroic figure. When he decides to seize an opportunity to be the hero, it is, of course, much less dashing than dirty and frightening. But once committed, he finds strengths within himself that he never suspected. He journeys to the Dry Towns on the suspicion that someone is providing the desert peoples with forbidden outworlder weapons. He thinks to just reconnoiter and report back but events move too quickly and he is soon in both camps: the smuggler outworlders bribing local villagers with weaponry and the Lord of Shainsa, a Dry Town , who plans to take the weapons for himself and challenge the Domains.

Linnea, Regis Hastur’s widow, is Comyn Tower ’s Keeper and is older and greying. She still grieves for the lost daughter that she and Regis hid away to protect from the World Wreckers and never recovered. She decides to try once more to find the child, now a grown woman, and contacts far Nevarsin Tower to speak to an old friend. To her shock, she finds herself speaking to that same daughter – who will not acknowledge her and refuses to speak to her again.

Kierestelli, now known as Sylvana, journeys back to the forest, where she grew up in hiding, to see her foster family and perhaps find some peace from the anger she still harbors at being abandoned. What she finds there, instead, is dire warnings from her chieri friend. A warning that something bad is coming out of the desert, and a promise from the chieri that they will help. Back at Nevarsin Tower , she is overwhelmed by a contact from someone in the desert who sends horrible images of Darkover burning as ships in the sky attack. She doesn’t know who sends the images but she can sense the sincerity. She has but one option to her – she has to contact her mother to bring this to the Comyn Council’s attention. Once she does, Linnea divines immediately that the sender must be Gareth.

The two threads, Gareth and Sylvana, interweave very nicely. It was nicely plotted. I just felt the characterizations were a bit immature, maybe more suited for a young adult audience. And I am intrigued by the promise of a new story with a fresh contact between Darkover and the Federation. ~~ Catherine Book

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