- Series: Darkover
- Hardcover: 480 pages
- Publisher: DAW (June 5, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0756400198
- ISBN-13: 978-0756400194
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 51 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,328,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Alton Gift (Darkover) Hardcover – June 5, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
The late Marion Zimmer Bradley's influence can still be detected in her posthumous Darkover "collaborations" with Ross. This opener to the Children of Kings trilogy (after 2004's A Flame in Hali, which concluded the Clingfire trilogy) focuses on a chilling threat: the resurgence of trailman's fever, a disease that could wipe out Darkover's population. The key to a cure is Jeremiah Reed, a Terran battle survivor whose memories were wiped by Lewis-Kennard Alton via the Alton Gift of forced rapport. As the medical crisis worsens, Mikhail Lanart-Hastur, Lew's son-in-law and Regent of Darkover, must fend off a political takeover by his power-hungry rival, Francisco Ridenow. Meanwhile, Mikhail's son, Domenic, finds himself torn between romances with Alanna, his unstable cousin, and lovely Illona, a Gifted under-Keeper. Though a slow start and arcane historical references might dissuade new readers, the teasing resolution will excite anticipation in those familiar with the memorable land of the Bloody Sun.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In the sequel to Traitor's Sun (1999), the Terrans have left Darkover, and little of their technology remains. Remnants of the Comyn are finding that governing the planet takes more energy and personnel than they have. Changes are needed, but squabbling over what changes continues. Its dream of a Terran-less world fulfilled, the conservative faction strives to restore its unquestioned lordship of the Domains. Domenic Hastur, heir to lordship of the Comyn, travels the Domains to assess the people's problems. When his father, the regent Mikhail, is assassinated, Domenic must assume the lordship just as a plague strikes Thendara. Sure to please Darkover fans. Murray, Frieda
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The excessive formality between Marguerida and Mikhail (and her father Lew Alton) as well as the slighting of her offworld education, experience and upbringing. No acknowledgement was made of her dissatisfaction with intrigue among the Comyn beyond "that is the way it is" and women, in Darkover's semi-feudalistic society, are relegated to a background role. This was something made apparent in preceding stories - that Margaret/Marguerida was not only very competent but very much a woman to be reckoned with. In this sequel her considerable knowledge and gifts remain unexpressed as she becomes meeker, and almost subservient, under a new hand.
Toward the end of "Traitor's Sun" the Telepathic Dampers in the Comyn Council chamber were shattered by Varzil The Good, and the spirit of Regis Hastur, and yet they are treated as whole and untouched since ages passed in this sequal. Some of the difference in viewpoint is revealed via the retelling of events from prior stories (attempting to establish continuity), but with a different viewpoint. Characters in the telling seemed at times wooden and unconvincing. For example - by the time of "The Shadow Matrix" Lew Alton had come to grips with some of the demons which had haunted him, and was freed from the lingering influence of the Sharra Matrix, and yet in this sequel it is treated as something which still burns in his soul.
With the reintroduction of the former heir, and head, of the Ridenow Domain (Francisco) the rationale offered seemed insufficient given his prior attempt at Regicide in "Traitor's Sun". Given his cynicism the likelihood of Lew Alton characterizing Franciso Ridenow as anything other than an untrustworthy rat seems implausible. Then there is the convenient demise of Javanne Hastur (and rapprochement with the young Domenic), which seemed, to me, to be a plot device simply to get rid of the complications she created. The story line is good enough in many ways, but, again, the telling struck almost as more of a "Gothic Romance" and less of what was the centerpiece of prior stories i.e., the strong personalities and culture of the society as affected through the agency of the paranormal abilities of the Hastur Kin.
I do disagree with the comment made by another reviewer that without the presence of the Terrans that the plotting and story suffers. Read the stories set in the "Ages of Chaos" "Stormqueen" and "Hawkmistress" for contrast and comparison. Both stories were excellent and did not require the presence of an exterior agency i.e., "The Terrans", to make them complete. MZB in her own forward to one of her earlier books, "The World Wreckers" if I recall correctly, commented that she set out to write about Darkover as Science Fiction centered around the interactions with the Terran Empire, but that it became apparent early on that what was most popular were the stories set in Darkover and the affect of the various "gifts" upon the culture and society of Darkover. The interaction with the Terran Empire became more or less secondary to the history and society of Darkover itself.
It is very rare that I cannot finish a book, even more rare that I can't finish a Darkover book. But I only made it through the second section ("Book two") before I could not take it any more. Part of me wants to know what happens, but only a small part and not enough to overcome the aversion to the poor storytelling. With sincere apologies to Ms. Ross, she should not have attempted this so early in her writing career. The books leading up to the departure of the Federation from Darkover were primarily written (and in the case of Sharra's Exile, rewritten!) late in MZB's career, once she had polished her skills to the utmost. To have Ms. Ross try to continue with the same storyline and characters at this stage is like having a painting apprentice finish up the Mona Lisa. Wait another ten, twenty years of writing before even considering it.
" Children of Kings" disappeared. The "Alton Gift" not only delivers logical continuation to the previous " The Shadow Matrix" and "The Traitor's Sun", but also reminds a reader what made "Marguerida and Michael" section of the series so good. There is drama, there is several subplots, there are plentiful and interesting characters, there is swiftly moving action.
While I have read Deborah J Ross's other works with MZB, I am disappointed that this particular adventure really leaves me with - "I really don't care what happens next for it just doesn't fit with what I know and understand in the Lew Alton world of Darkover."
Please, Ms. Ross - in the next two versions - either come closer to what has been written before and ensure that whomever does your fact and character checking really knows the previous books and characters - or give up the post and let us readers imagine on our own how to address the "Dry Towners" and the return of the Terran Empire - sure to be difficult and one that centers on the entire theme of technological societies vs. magical/mystical/primitive societies.
Dr. Judy Kunkle