This is the latest Darkover book – a series I’ve been following for a long time (heck, it’s outliving the original author).
In this book, Prince Gareth Elhalyn is chafing a bit at the strictured life he has to live in Thendara as the heir to the throne of the Comyn (as well as being a member of the notoriously unstable Elhalyn family). His grandmother, Lady Linnea Storn, understands what he’s going through, and when Gareth decide to venture out to the Dry Towns, because Lady Linnea knows she can’t stop him, she gives him what help she can.
The Dry Towns aren’t mentioned much in previous Darkover books –they’re more a threat on the horizon, a different part of Darkover that hate the Comyn lords. Oddly enough, the most complete story about them is The Door Through Space, which isn’t technically considered a Darkover novel, as it was written early on while Bradley was writing these books, and she didn’t decide the Dry Towns were a part of Darkover until later. (Darkover completist that I am, I do have a copy of it on the shelf next to the real books in the series.) So it’s nice to see this part of Darkover dealt with in a story.
The story itself is a fairly standard young man goes to find himself in the desert and has adventures, mixed in with return of Offworlders, who had left Darkover when Gareth was very young.
There’s a separate side story about Linnea’s oldest daughter, Kierestelli, who Linnea and her husband had had to hide away when she was young, and the World Wreckers had been trying to take out the families of Darkover’s ruling figures. Stelli was lost to them at that time, and Regis and Linnea were never able to find her again. Linnea accidentally stumbles upon Stelli, now called Silvana, who is the Keeper of Nevarsin Tower. Silvana thinks her parents abandoned her, and wants nothing to do with Linnea. Naturally, Silvana has a part to play in the larger story.
I could have taken or left Silvana’s part of the story. It did seem a bit tacked on. It does make me wonder if Bradley left a checklist of loose ends she wanted tied up, and Ross is just working them into stories as she goes along. What did make me happy is that this story sets up the return of the Terranan, so there’s plenty of potential action, and hopefully more stories to come.