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Seekers and Ghatti enter international diplomacy
on September 16, 2004
It's been six months since Doyce's stepson Vesey and the renegade "Gleaners" (telepaths) he led were destroyed, though not without cost to Doyce herself: ever since that battle she has closed herself off mentally from everyone, including her would-be lover Jenret (whose presence she wasn't even aware of) and her beloved Bond, the ghatta Khar'pren. So Khar is delighted when the chief of the Seeker corps asks Doyce to join a diplomatic mission. The chief (only?) continent of the ghattis' world was long ago divided by its human colonists into two countries: the Seekers' Canderis, which is a republic, and Marchmont, a monarchy. Recently Marchmont's aged queen died without obvious heirs, and border incidents have been multiplying ever since, endangering the freedom of trade between the two nations and, thereby, Canderis's prosperity. Accompanied by several other Seekers and their ghatti, plus Nakum, the forester, and his ghatt Saam as guides, she sets out for the border. When Chak, the Bond of the senior Seeker, unexpectedly dies and his human walks off a cliff with his body, Doyce is promoted to head the party, much to her dismay, and they continue on their way.
In Marchmont, intrigue is afoot, and questions are everywhere. Who is the heir, and why can't he or she be found? Who is the mysterious Steward who guides Marchmont while the search continues? Who is trying to disrupt the Seekers' mission? Where does the D'Artagnan-esque guardsman Arras Muscadeine stand? Can the Canderisians stop a palace coup from placing the power-hungry Lord Maurice on the throne? As they struggle to carry out their mandate, they learn, to their astonishment, that Marchmont is overrun with telepaths--but these are not the meddling Gleaners of Canderis; their society acknowledges them and they function openly and, for the most part, ethically. Their powers will prove crucial to the resolution of the situation--but so will the Seekers: the late Queen on her deathbed urged her people to "wait for the ghatt" who would lead them to their next ruler, and so one does.
Although by no means a quick read, this second in the Ghatti's Tale series is equally rich in texture and insight, and author Greeno displays a keen understanding of how governments and economies work and how people react to psychological stress. (Some reviewers take Doyce to task for her "whining," but I understand her feelings: she thinks there should have been something she could have done, as Vesey's stepmother, to prevent him from growing up so twisted, and she believes she should have nurtured rather than destroyed him, which naturally makes for guilt.) The climactic scenes may be difficult for some readers to bear, as two ghatti and their Seekers die gallant but violent deaths for a country that isn't even theirs; but in the end the right triumphs and Doyce and Jenret appear to be on their way to healing.