It is mind-boggling to realize the amazing contributions that science fiction maven and mentor Marion Zimmer Bradley contributed to the field over so many decades. I am a very long-time fan of the Darkover series although it has been many years since I first read the initial books. I was pleased to have the many hints that allude to all of the events that have led to this point where the planet that the locals call Darkover is purportedly isolated from the struggles being played out among various worlds although I must confess that I am very tempted to go back and re-read many of the original books. The events in this particular book can be read as a standalone volume but there are so many threads that are interconnected that it would be enriching to read some of the fascinating stories that predate the events of this one. I enjoyed many of the twists that are presented and was intrigued by the revelations about those enigmatic beings called the chieri but some of the rapidly shifting events get a little frenetic, especially toward the end of the book. Hopefully, this means that there are many more volumes to look forward to as Ms Ross very expertly continues to expound upon the impressive universe created by her friend and mentor, the great Marion Zimmer Bradley.
“The Children of Kings” is the delightful science fiction/fantasy novel that adds to the impressive collection of Darkover novels set in the world created by the late Marion Zimmer Bradley. Author Deborah J. Ross has co-written multiple volumes that continue the saga of the denizens of the world which seems so primitive to those who travel in space yet has a wealth of undercurrents and resources. Gareth Marius-Danvan Elhalyn y Hastur has an influential lineage yet has always felt vaguely useless, despite being heir to the throne of the Seven Domains. His illustrious grandmother, Linnea Storn-Lanart, has given him basic training in the use of the formidable mental powers known as laran but she can see the discontent that leads him to pursue an adventure which may very well risk his life and she does what she can to mitigate some of the risk that he is taking. Gareth travels to the regions known as Dry Town where he learns more about the various peoples who wrest a life out of extremely harsh conditions but he makes a discovery that may very well destroy everything achieved with the Compact which demands the use of weapons which allow equal risk to wielder and foe. Darkover may no longer be free to remain isolated from the struggles playing out in space and Gareth may require extreme sacrifice from himself as well as from the unexpected allies he has acquired, including the enigmatic being known as Rakhal.
Now Available in Print. Re-Issued review from 4/24/13.
Millennia ago, the planet Darkover, a cold world orbiting a giant red sun, was settled by a lost colony ship from the Terran Federation. Alone on a new world, survivors interbred with the native chieri, psychically Giften alien humanoids. The children of these matings were Gifted with telepathy and other psychic abilities, and their descendants, the aristocratic Comyn, forged a civilization in which the arts of the mind were cultivated and cherished.
When the Terrans rediscovered Darkover, the seven Domains of Comyn struggeld to maintain their unique culture and independence, often at a terrible price. More than once, assassins and environmental saboteurs from the Terran Empire attempted to bring Darkover to its knees and erode the native culture for the benefit of the Federation -- seing Darkover as nothing more than a port of call for Terran military and trade. Eventually, a vicious interstellar war forced Federation forces to withdraw from Darkover, but Darkovans knew that it was only a matter of time before they would return.
Prince Garth Elhalyn has grown up in the shadow of his legendary grandfather, Regis Hastur, one of the greatest leaders Darkover has ever known. But he is also haunted by fear of the insanity that is prevalent in his Elhalyn family line. His world has become an unbearable counterpoint of meaningless aristocratic frivoloty and dangerous political schemes -- plots in which powerful lords attmept to use him to further their own ambitions. He tries his best to better himself through the study of languages, swordplay, and training his psychic laran with his grandmother, Linnea Storn-Hastur, Keeper of Comyn Tower. But Gareth cannot stop dreaming about a future without fame or family.
In a desperate attempt to remove himself completely from the restricted life of the Comyn, Gareth confesses his desire to his powerful grandmother, and with her blessing, disguises himself as a simple trader and travels to Carthon, on the border of the barbarous, warklike Dry Towns. The Dry Towns do not live under the rule of the Comyn, and no one in this isolated part of Darkover will recognize a Comyn lord.
In Carthon, protected by his guise of anonymity, Gareth overhears rumors of deadly, illegal Terran blasters being used in the barren lands beyond Shainsa -- one of the main Dry Towns. If the Federation has returned and is now arming the bellicose Dry Towners with banned technology, it will mean a disastrous conflict for the Comyn of the Domains, who have long sworn themselves to the Compact, an oath of honor that forbids the use of distance weaponry. Venturing deeper and deeper into the desert lands, Gareth stumbles upon a terrible reality no one could have suspected and he is ill-prepared to deal with.
But in fact, Gareth holds the key to protecting his world, if he can only stay alive in the deadly Dry Towns long enough to discover what it is....
The Children of Kings follows The Alton Gift and Traitor's Sun in the Darkover timeline.