While Traitor’s Sun could have wrapped up the Darkover saga after Marion’s health began to decline, it is obvious from the ideas and partial tales that she left behind, her mind was still weaving plot twists and challenges for her favourite characters. Luckily, her talented friend and protégée, Deborah J. Ross was able to gather the pieces that Bradley had left unfinished and deftly weave them together into the fabulous adventure found in these pages.
The Alton Gift is perhaps one of the most introspective of all the Darkover novels. While Marion never shied away from difficult topics or taboos, The Alton Gift takes a long hard look at the ethics necessary to deal with the power of “forced telepathic contact” that lies behind the Alton family talent.
Marion Zimmer Bradley long admitted that the character of Lew Alton was her favourite and this novel finally allows the beloved character to lay many of his demons to rest in the twilight of his life. Deborah J. Ross was no doubt working with Bradley fairly closely until her death in September of 1999 and was intimately aware of how she felt at the end of her life, yet that sense of closure is easily felt by any reader picking up The Alton Gift. There is a sense of acceptance of self and accounting for one’s actions that makes this novel the most poignant of all the Darkover novels. While the torch has been successfully passed to the capable hands and heart of Deborah J. Ross, with possible stories about the Modern Darkover still forthcoming, this book remains the final Darkover novel in my mind. Marguerida and Mikhail’s son, Domenic grows into his own manhood throughout the challenges and twists of this tale as Lew Alton’s life settles finally into one of peace. There remains bits and pieces of the story for readers to imagine, but the saga itself is drawn to a poignant and satisfying close.
I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Ross to bring this story to a close and prepare it for publication without her beloved friend and mentor, but I commend her for providing readers with this wonderful gift almost a decade after Bradley’s death. Many of us had wished for one more visit to this wonderful world. Rereading all of the books this summer reminded me of what classics they truly are.
Paperback format, 528 pages, published in 2007 by DAW Books.