Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Book 73: Sharra's Exile

Tuesday, August 29, 2006
This Darkover novel written by Marion Zimmer Bradley begins a couple of years after the events of The Heritage of Hastur. Lew Alton, now somewhat disfigured because of his use of the Sharra Matrix, is recovering offworld with his father and is a bitter young man. Everything that he cared about was taken from him, including his wife and unborn child, and he is partially responsible for the destruction of a city by the Sharra Matrix. The Sharra Matrix is a focus for incredible and ancient power and has been used as a nearly uncontrollable weapon in the past. Lew is one of the handful of men and women who rediscovered the matrix and through betrayals sought to use it, though with one final betrayal he helped to stop the destruction. Sharra's Exile covers several years that Lew spent off world in possession of the Matrix (he is so strongly linked to the Matrix that if he gets too far from it he may die), and then covers the events that follows his return to Darkover carrying the forbidden Matrix.

Sharra's Exile is told in alternating chapters between the first person perspective of Lew Alton and the third person perspective dealing with other characters, mostly Regis Hastur. This is a novel rife with conflict. Lew is emotionally a wreck and has a very difficult time controlling his emotions after the Sharra incident and because he is a telepath in a caste of telepaths, he is unintentionally broadcasting his pain to anyone nearby. Lew is also half Terran, so there are some in the Comyn ruling class who look down on Lew and his family even though he is the heir to his family's Domain. This is another conflict. Yet another has to do with the Sharra Matrix. In the Regis chapters there are conflicts regarding his views about Terran Culture and that Regis is far more progressive than his grandfather as well as most of the Comyn.

Sharra's Exile is a complete rewrite of one of Bradley's earliest novels The Sword of Aldones and while I haven't read that first book I thought this was a very solid entry into the Darkover Chronology. Bradley has multiple conflicts and plot points going and there is plenty of intrigue and even some action. The novel flows well and because of all of the conflict, Darkover is a conflicted society, there was plenty to hold my interest as she moved the primary story along of the re-emergence and fear of the Sharra Matrix. There is a bit of absurdity (The Sword of Aldones, the Terran woman) and Bradley has recycled a couple of story techniques she has used in the past but this time it is more dues ex machina than necessary plotting, but overall Sharra's Exile is a good Darkover story and an entertaining read. That's all I really ask for out of a book.


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