Marion Zimmer Bradley
& Deborah J. Ross,
The Fall of Neskaya
(DAW, 2002)

Coryn Leynier is the son of the lord of Verdanta in the Heller Mountains of Darkover. He awakens one morning from a dream of fire to find that an actual forest fire is blazing on Verdanta lands. Denied access to Tramontana Tower by the Storns of High Kinally, their long-time enemies, the Leyniers are desperate for help. When Rumail of Neskaya Tower arrives to test the Leynier children for psionic gifts, it seems like a boon from the gods. Easily able to use his telepathic powers to contact Tramontana, Rumail summons help in the form of fire-fighting chemicals and the flyers needed to spread them.

Shortly thereafer, as Rumail is testing the Leynier children, he realizes that Coryn is seriously ill with threshhold sickness, an ailment that strikes young telepaths as their full powers begin to awaken. It is arranged for Coryn to go to Tramontana for training of his powers. He is pleased that Rumail will not be accompanying him. He can't be sure why, but he doesn't trust Rumail. He feels that something bad happened while Rumail was examining him, but he can't point to anything specific.

What none of the Leyniers realize is that Rumail, the brother of King Damian Deslucido, has implanted a control in Coryn's mind, something that will allow him to use Coryn for his brother's purposes. And King Damian's purpose is to make all of Darkover, willing or not, into a single kingdom -- his own. And Rumail has his own dream, beyond that, to make his brother's kingdom subject to the will of the Towers, which he intends to control himself.

Taniquel Hastur-Acosta is the queen of the small kingdom of Acosta. When the king her husband is killed by the conquering forces of Damian Deslucido, she is told that she will be married to Damian's son Belisar to legitimate the conquest. But Taniquel, who only that morning had planned to tell her husband that she was carrying his heir, chooses instead to flee to her uncle, King Rafael Hastur, in Thendara.

She demands that her uncle help her overthrow Deslucido and reclaim Acosta in her son's name, but, though he would like to help her, he refuses to throw away lives. But two things happen to convince him otherwise -- Taniquel proves that Deslucido lied under truthspell, and Deslucido makes a move on Hastur lands. Now Rafael Hastur, with Taniquel at his side, must defeat Damian Deslucido for the safety of all of Darkover.

One of the first things readers of the Darkover series will want to know is the era in which The Fall of Neskaya is set. This is the time of the Hundred Kingdoms, after the Ages of Chaos, but before the institution of the Compact that outlawed distance weapons. During this era, the breeding programs of the Towers have been ended, but the terrible psi-made weapons are still in use.

With The Fall of Neskaya, Deborah Ross draws on the established world of Darkover to create a novel rich in detail and background. The characters are complex people with believable motivations. While the plot may not be particularly convoluted, that's hardly necessary in this story of how one man's ambition can affect so many thousands of other lives.

Begun before Marion Zimmer Bradley died, this work was always intended to be a collaboration between herself and Ross, and Ross has capably stepped in to fill the opening left by Bradley's untimely death. Darkover and its readers are in good hands.

- Rambles
written by Laurie Thayer
published 15 February 2003

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