See my earlier review of the other books in this famous series.
This book was published the very next year after the last one, "Heretics of Dune". For Herbert, this was at warp-speed; I would guess the story really drove him. He passed soon after, in 1986; the story arc incomplete.
As with "Heretics…", this was exciting and robust storytelling at his best. And, as with "Heretics…" the story focused on the Bene Gesserit.
This story picks up from the last book almost immediately. The Honored Matres have completely destroyed the planet known as Arrakis or Rakis or Dune. In "Heretics…", Miles Teg died and this story begins with the birth of his ghola. After all, the Sisterhood wastes nothing and they want their superb Mentat Basher back at the helm. They have much to risk in their conflict with the Honored Matres and they will surely be overrun without the military genius of Teg.
The story focuses almost solely on the new Mother Superior, Darwi Odrade. Odrade has gained a potential Reverend Mother in the person of Murbella, late of the Honored Matres. Murbella is now inextricably tied to Duncan Idaho and both are sequestered in a no-ship in order to keep them hidden from the Honored Matres. And she is a rich source of information on how the Honored Matres function.
Odrade intends to force a meeting with the Great Honored Matre, dubbed "The Spider Queen" by the witches. She realized it may very well be a one-way trip so she takes some particular steps to ensure her vision for the Sisterhood doesn't die with her. But Odrade, like Taraza before her, takes an exceptionally long-term view and her plans for both the Sisterhood and the Honored Matres won't be acceptable to either. But she is sure they are necessary for the continued existence of both and the next step in humanity's maturation. An unfortunate side effect will, undoubtedly, be the death knell for her beloved planet known as Chapterhouse.
Scytale, probably the last living Bene Tleilaxu, is also imprisoned on the no-ship; for his protection, of course. Odrade is certain he continues to hide information; particularly the method for replicating spice in their axtolt tanks. But not being one to keep all her eggs in one basket, Odrade also continues Mother Superior Taraza's plan for an alternate source of spice. This part of the story concerns Sheeana but not to a great degree. There also is not a great deal for Scytale to do in this book. He does carry a deep secret; one that he'll do anything to protect. Unfortunately, Herbert wasn't able to complete that part of the story.
But Duncan and Murbella have a great deal to contribute. Both are intimately aware of her upcoming trial or The Agony; the process by which she'll become a Reverend Mother with access to past memories. Duncan is painfully aware that he'll lose the Murbella he loves while she is sure her love for him will carry her through. Only Odrade has an inkling of Murbella's importance to her long-term plan, completing what The Tyrant, Leto II, started.
A smaller plotline concerns the fate of Rebecca, the Jewish Reverend Mother who was the target of a deadly Honored Matre attack at the end of "Heretics…". She carries with her all the memories of Lucille; a treasure trove of information which the Sisterhood desperately needs.
The time table is moving faster than Odrade would wish; they can't wait for the Miles Teg ghola to grow up; he has to be awakened as soon as possible. They must have their military commander, the great Mentat Basher, before the Honored Matres find Chapterhouse. But the Teg ghola has a new ability that shocks even him; an ability that he reasons must be kept secret from absolutely everyone. (Again, a storyline that Herbert wasn't able to complete.)
Herbert spent a great deal of the book comparing Honored Matres to the Sisterhood while Odrade speculated as to which of the Scattered ancestors contributed to the origin of the Honored Matres. After all, not one Reverend Mother sent out ever returned. But she sees signs of Fish Speakers, too. There were some interesting ideas presented about the nature of religion and how to guide (read: control) the masses.
This was more good storytelling from Herbert; he showed his expertise in that he could impart his favorite theories about religion while providing great prose. He never relied on exposition. It will forever be a loss to his fans that he didn't complete the epic.
I will be moving on to the newer stories told by his son, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson. ~~ Catherine Book
For more titles by Frank Herbert click here
For more titles in the Dune series click here
For the Trivia Contest questions click here