I first discovered Darkover more than ten years ago and happily plunged in. After several books, I had to come up for air as internal inconsistencies mounted within the series. Characters' relative ages and degrees of kinship changed, as did distances and directions across the terrain.
Every few years, I try again. IMHO, this book encapsulated MZB's strengths and weaknesses in a single volume. Marguerida Alton is a vivid and likeable character, but the plot (or half-plot; I suspect the original manuscript was split into this book and _Shadow Matrix_, which I've not yet read) was essentially _The Bloody Sun_ starring her instead of Jeff Kerwin. Still, she's trotted out the same concept several times (_The Spell Sword_ et al.) while still managing to keep things reasonably fresh.
Another reviewer wondered about Jeff's reappearance as Damon Ridenow. MZB herself apparently forgot about her rewrite of _The Bloody Sun_, in which he first appears. In the original version, Jeff's dad was Arnad Ridenow, as the infodump in this version sets forth. However, the rewrite switched paternity to Lew Alton's uncle Lewis-Arnad Lanart-Alton, who was at that time the Heir to Alton. Jeff himself is (IIRC) some twenty years older than Lew's *father* in TBS, and yet Jeff and Lew show up here as nearly the same age.
This sort of thing drives me mad, especially when the inconsistent genealogies and chronologies weren't even needed to move along the plot of this book. If anything, the persistent infodumps slowed things down.
Without the inconsistencies and incompletion, I might've given this book an 8 or 9. As matters stand, a 6 is the best I can do.