Marion Zimmer Bradley
& Deborah J. Ross,
The Clingfire Trilogy #2:
Zandru's Forge

(DAW, 2003)

It is the time of the Hundred Kingdoms on Darkover, with numerous petty kings and table-size kingdoms, where tiny grievances can set an entire region aflame with war. It is a time of hideous laran weapons that can kill from great distances and poison the very land for generations.

Varzil Ridenow has only one dream, to be trained at a Tower and take his place in the matrix circles, but his father does not believe that Varzil's mental gifts are great enough to warrant training. Without his father's permission, no Tower will admit Varzil as a student. But when Varzil uses his mental gifts to perform the impossible, his father not only gives his permission, but his blessing. Varzil finds himself, at long last, living his dream, training at Arilinn Tower.

There he finds a young man called Carlo, who has only slight gifts. He is not there to train his gifts, but rather to learn Tower discipline, for it is Carlo's destiny to rule -- he is Carolin Hastur, and will be the Hastur King when his uncle dies.

Carolin and Varzil, despite their differences in rank, and despite the fact that generations ago, their families were at war, form a deep friendship. They have a dream that one day, Darkover will be at peace, with the Towers not manufacturing their horrible weapons and without petty kings slaughtering people from the safety of their own halls.

Also at Arilinn Tower is a young man called Eduin MacEarn, a serious young scholar who keeps his mind tightly shuttered and sleeps with a telepathic damper so that none can read his sleeping thoughts. He is not what or whom he appears to be, but the son of the renegade Keeper Rumail Deslucido, who caused the destruction of Tramontana and Neskaya Towers a generation since. Eduin has taken up his father's quest to destroy the Hasturs, especially the descendants of Taniquel Hastur-Acosta.

Zandru's Forge is the second book in The Clingfire Trilogy, which Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah Ross began work on before Bradley's death in 1999. The book takes place some 20 years after The Fall of Neskaya; songs are now sung about the destruction of those Towers and Taniquel Hastur-Acosta is but a memory, her children intentionally lost in obscurity.

This is a story driven as much by characters and their ideals as by action. Varzil and Carolin want very much to bring peace and spend a great deal of time working to bring about their pact (what will come to be known as the Compact). Eduin is tortured both by his father's wish that he destroy the Hasturs and his impossible friendship with Carolin.

There is plenty of action, too; laran wars, rebellion and counter-rebellion, and a welcome appearance by Romilly MacAran (one of my favorite Darkover characters), the heroine of Bradley's earlier Hawkmistress, at the point where this story intersects her own.

Zandru's Forge has a great deal to recommend it; it is an excellent addition to the saga of the planet Darkover. I'm very much looking forward to the last book in the trilogy.

- Rambles
written by Laurie Thayer
published 20 March 2004

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