After the Sharra Rebellion cost him a hand and the trust of many of the ruling people of Darkover, Lew Alton left his home planet behind. His return to Darkover, and the other events that take place in Sharra’s Exile, eventually lead Lew to being appointed to the Terran Imperial Senate as his planet’s representative, leaving Darkover behind yet again… this time with his wife Dio and the young daughter he’s only just begun to know.
Exile’s Song begins with Margaret Alton’s return to Darkover as an adult and an assistant to a renowned musicologist from the Federation University planet, sent to study local music. Her red hair and fluency in the Darkover language make her an asset to her beloved professor, but also mark her as one of the Comyn, the Laran talented ruling families of Darkover that she knows nothing about. After the sudden death of her mentor, Margaret Alton find herself embroiled in a web of intrigue and local politic, inheritance and latent psychic abilities that could not only change her entire future, it might also cost her her life!
Exile’s Song is a fascinating look at the culture of Darkover from someone belongs to the world but is able to see it from an outsider’s point of view. As an independent, educated, intelligent female, Margaret Alton is dismayed and shocked by some of the aspects of this patriarchal society. She has been left in the dark about much of her heritage, so an element of mystery/ discovery carries the story along as she tries to sort out the pieces of her destiny. While the “torn between two cultures” has always been a major theme in Bradley’s work and the Darkover novels especially, this book feels far more intimate and poignant than the usual 3rd person narrative. Perhaps it is just the passion and detail with which Bradley returns to her favourite planet as she creates a new era , one for which she’d laid the groundwork over a decade before.
Exile’s Song was written a full 15 years after Sharra’s Exile and marks Bradley’s epic return to the beloved world that she created. It sets in motion characters and events that will spread over several other books (one of which was finished posthumously by Deborah J. Ross) that form the closing chapters in the official Darkover timeline. Like other famous and much loved sagas (Star Trek, Star Wars, Dune etc.) there will be fan fiction and perhaps even other stories yet to come. But things change in a world once the creator of it passes on. Exile’s Song has a wonderful ending that could allow it to stand on its own, but I am glad Marion continued with their adventures up until her death(and beyond).
Paperback format, 493 pages, published in 1996 by DAW Books.