I’ve been both looking forward to and dreading this book. The dread stems from the fact that Marion Zimmer Bradley has actually been dead for some time now, and I’m not overly fond of the author that her literary trust assigned to continue with the Darkover books.
I got into Darkover shortly after Bradley died, when the trilogy starting with Exile’s Song was released. As I understand, Bradley had some level of involvement with Exile’s Song, but not the final two books. However, her name was the only name on them, and the fit a certain tone that had been established by the later books that Bradley actually did write, so I was actually a bit surprised when I found out she didn’t write them. (What can I say. The interwebs were still young, and I wasn’t yet acquainted with the level of research I could accomplish there. And I lived under a rock.) So, fast forward to Deborah J. Ross’ first actual Darkover outing, the Clingfire trilogy. I read them, but I wasn’t over fond of them. I remember thinking several times that it was a shame they’d given Diana Paxson the Avalon books instead of Darkover.
My main problem was the revisionism. I realize this makes me somewhat hypocritical, as the entire Darkover oeuvre is an exercise in growing as an author and sneaking in changes when two decades later you realize the stories you wrote as a youngster were mild crap, or just didn’t work within the increased framework of the world. But I can take that coming from Bradley. Not so much from another author.
So, here we arrive at The Alton Gift. It’s a continuation of the trilogy begun with Exile’s Song. It involves characters I’m rather fond of. And it was much better then the Clingfire trilogy. I have some minor quibbles with style, but Ross isn’t Bradley, so I’m going to let those go. The story at least progressed satisfactorily, and brought some amount of closure to the lives of the characters. There’s still the possibility for more stories, but I’d be ok no more were published.
My main quibble is that this book had enough in it that it seemed like it could have been split out, and the two main story lines expanded into their own books. Though, as I think about this, most of the actual Bradley Darkover books were written as stand-alones, or duologies at most. The trilogy was an innovation of the non-Bradley books. So maybe I just need to get back into the mindset of the originals for story length.
So, I’m glad I paid full price for this book (I’ve been buying the Clingfire books used, and only because since I have every other Darkover book, I figure I need to have those as well), and I’m cautiously optimistic that if they choice to publish more, I’ll actually enjoy them.