When I reviewed The Fall of Neskaya (Book One of the Clingfire Trilogy) as number #49 in my Cannonball Read IV Challenge, I shared how sad I was that the other 2 books in the trilogy were proving to be so hard to find. Big Box bookstores seem to be carrying less and less older works by some of the classic Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors I’ve read for years. This trilogy, that Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote with the help of Deborah J. Ross before her death in 1999, was a missing part of my Darkover collection.
This is where the Internet proves to be so COOL! A few weeks after that review, I received a Facebook message from Deborah J. Ross herself! You could have knocked me over with a feather when she not only complimented me on my review of Book One but generously offered to send me copies of the other two books to complete my collection. I am sure that I shrieked louder than a teenager girl given a backstage pass for a One Direction concert!
The books arrived safe, sound and Autographed! I read them tenderly and carefully. No bath time soaks for these precious additions to mybookshelves downstairs. The two novels were so intertwined that I decided to review these masterful tales together.
Zandru’s Forge, Book Two in the Clingfire Trilogy, is also set during the Hundred Kingdoms era of Darkover, but it takes place much longer after the first novel than I’d expected. Tramontana and Neskaya Towers lie in ruins after the epic conflicts covered in the first novel, but it is the next generation that takes up the story. Carolin Hastur, the heir and future king of Darkover is at Arilinn Tower for his training. Another determined young man, skinny and short, stubbornly demands training for his laran gifts. Varzil Ridenow finally receives permission and not only befriends Carolin, he starts out on a journey that will see him become the most powerful Keeper Darkover has ever know and the driving force behind the Compact to ban weapons that harm from a distance. There is also a third young man at the Tower. Though he is know as Eduin MacEarn, he is actually the son of the outlaw Keeper Rumail Deslucido who escapes the battle at the end of the first novel. His father’s dark laran gift and sworn vengeance against all Hasturs has not only shaped this young man’s early years… it will continue to play havoc a planet’s future as these 3 young men grow up to become pivotal figures in the history of Darkover.
A Flame In Hali concludes the amazing and complex Clingfire Trilogy. It deals with the difficult subject of ethics amid warfare. It weaves an incredible and moving tale of how a planet came to grips with the horrors of warfare and overcame it in way that our own society has yet to deal with. It provides richer details about this key era in Darkover history and greater insight into figures who had remained tantalizingly underdeveloped until now. To my great delight, it also wove in and overlapped with one of my favourite Darkover novels of all time…. Hawkmistress! When I reached the part where the characters and events began to overlap with the timeline of that novel, I let out a sigh of contentment at how well it was handled.
I am infinitely grateful to Deborah J. Ross for sharing her talents with Marion and with the world to ensure that these stories did not just pass into the mists after Bradley’s death. The history, ideas and settings are all classic Marion Zimmer Bradley, but there is a richness, a depth of character and an abiding respect of style that could only have come from someone who knew Bradley well and cared as passionately about Darkover as Marion did.
Zandru’s Forge Hardcover format, 462 pages, published in 2003 by DAW Books.
A Flame In Hali Hardcover format, 466 pages, published in 2004 by DAW Books.