In Exile’s Song, Margaret Alton returned to the world of her birth, found the love of her life, discovered her hereditary psychic powers knows as laran, defeated a legendary Keeper and brought a strange Shadow Matrix back from her adventures in the overworld… permanently bonded into the flesh of her hand.
The Shadow Matrix continues the adventures of Lew Alton’s headstrong daughter and her efforts to find her place in Darkovan society. Her Federation education and independence had already caused some conservative members of the Comyn council to regard her with distrust, but the fact that she and the Heir to Regis Hastur have fallen in love makes them a very powerful and politically dangerous combination to boot. Margaret is sent off to learn how to control her powers and Mikhail Lanart-Hastur is sent to examine the unstable, unpredictable offspring of the traditional ruling family. Both of them end up embroiled in an adventure that will not only change their lives, but potentially change the balance of Power on Darkover forever. Will this put Darkover on an even footing with the Terran Empire? Will they ever be able to be together or will the other powerful families of Darkover keep them apart?
The Shadow Matrix was published a year after Exile’s Song and a year before Traitor’s Sun. I suspect that Bradley wrote these in sequence in the gap of time between Sharra’s Exile and Exile’s Song (along with her other novels and the huge amount of editing that she did for anthologies etc.) but that these books became a priority for her as her health began to decline. There is a sense of determination in the books that seep through the main characters as they try to find the best destiny for their planet. I almost wonder if Bradley stopped thinking of each story as an adventure on its own and began to plan out how she would lay out the next step in Darkover’s future for readers to enjoy.
Regardless of how or why these last novels about Darkover came about, they are perhaps the best examples of her maturity as a writer, her talent as a storyteller and her unique ability to weave in detail and depth without weighing a book down. I had forgotten just how wonderful these last great books were until I devoured them again in sequence, savouring over 2,000 pages in less than 5 days during a very hectic week.
Paperback format, 556 pages, published in 1997 by DAW Books.