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!EBOOK ♵ The Alton Gift ☦ The long awaited continuation to the popular science fiction saga is the story of Darkover s ruling class, the comyn, and their struggles to reclaim their realm from the devastating effects of the Terran Federation Another of the books Marion Zimmer Bradley plotted with Deborah J Ross ere she died I have to say that I really like the way Ross has kept Darkover alive and am getting over the fact that she doesn t write the way Bradley did She doesn t much write action scenes, which is OK because she doesn t do them nearly as well as Bradley did, and the exploration of human sexuality isn t present, which is OK because Bradley pretty well exhausted that theme What Ross does very well is plot political i Another of the books Marion Zimmer Bradley plotted with Deborah J Ross ere she died I have to say that I really like the way Ross has kept Darkover alive and am getting over the fact that she doesn t write the way Bradley did She doesn t much write action scenes, which is OK because she doesn t do them nearly as well as Bradley did, and the exploration of human sexuality isn t present, which is OK because Bradley pretty well exhausted that theme What Ross does very well is plot political intrigue, family relations, and the lives of young people coming into their own This novel is a direct continuation of Traitor s Sun, the last Darkover novel of Bradley s life, a novel that I am particularly fond of Although there are multiple narratives and story lines, the main one follows Dominic, son of Margarida Alton main character of Bradley s last trilogy and Mikhael, Regent and essentially the most powerful political figure on the planet.It is a few years after Traitor s Sun, and the Terrans have withdrawn from Darkover in the midst of a civil war For the first time since the Age of Chaos novels, the Terran Empire doesn t play an active part, although there is one character, named Jeram, who is a Terran who left behind Also present is Lew Alton, prominent in a number of other Darkover novels, who is the first character Bradley created in the Darkover series and who is the character she said she most identified with.Despite the fact that the Terrans have withdrawn and there is a time of relative peace, political infighting and the recurrence of a disease thought eradicated give Dominic plenty of challenges to overcome The novel is exciting, well plotted, has great character development, and has a thoroughly satisfying ending Brava, Ms Ross Bradley would be pleased This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers To view it, click here The Alton Gift pub 2007 , written by Deborah J Ross from notes by Marion Zimmer Bradley, is the first book to deal with Darkover in the post Terran era and things are not good.Darkover has clearly suffered in the three years since the departure of the Terrans Only a generation has passed since the assault of the world wreckers, and the planet s ecology is still too fragile to sustain even the slightest of injuries Forest fires have ravaged the hill areas, but without access to the fire fi The Alton Gift pub 2007 , written by Deborah J Ross from notes by Marion Zimmer Bradley, is the first book to deal with Darkover in the post Terran era and things are not good.Darkover has clearly suffered in the three years since the departure of the Terrans Only a generation has passed since the assault of the world wreckers, and the planet s ecology is still too fragile to sustain even the slightest of injuries Forest fires have ravaged the hill areas, but without access to the fire fighting chemicals of the Terrans, and with the numbers of Tower trained leroni too depleted to fight fires in the old fashioned way, with laran, whole villages have been destroyed, their inhabitants reduced to wandering the roads in search of work The economy is faltering And, harkening back to the very first Darkovan novel, a new strain of trailman s fever has appeared and this time, the trailmen are dying of it too.Not surprisingly, social unrest has reached levels previously unknown on Darkover With the Comyn no longer able to uphold its part in the ancient feudal bargain, the social fabric of Darkovan culture is fraying Added to this is the legacy of the self imposed isolation that Regis Hastur adopted for himself and his kin after the wave of assassination attempts engineered by the world wreckers, which distanced the Comyn leaders from the people, and the effects of the Terran attempts to foment revolt through political satires spread by their agents among the Travellers.Meanwhile, Lew Alton is having a crisis of conscience over his use of the Alton Gift to muddle the memories of the Terrans who survived the battle on the Old North Road On the advice of Danilo Syrtis, he retires to the home of the cristoforo monks at Nevarsin where he hopes to find some peace of mind Instead, he is directly confronted with his actions when the Keeper of Neskaya asks for his help in dealing with a Terran experiencing the awakening of latent laran as a result of being subjected to forced rapport The Terran, Jeremiah Reed now calling himself Joram had remained on Darkover when the others were evacuated, and is, of course, one of those who attacked the funeral cortege Lew restores his memories, helps him learn to control his laran, in the process both of them find a degree of healing and redemption for Joram, a former biotechnician tasked with creating bioweapons, has his own demons to settle.As the scene shifts from the Hellers to Thendara, Joram and the knowledge that Lew and Marguerida have misused their power falls into the hands of Mikhail Lanart Hastur s enemy, Francisco Ridenow With the Comyn Council in session, Francisco brings Joram to a council meeting, intending to use his story as a reason to challenge Mikhail s leadership When Joram, despite being drugged, refuses to accuse Marguerida and Lew, Francisco declares blood feud against Mikhail In the ensuing duel, Francisco is killed but not before he manages to wound Mikhail with a poisoned blade With Mikhail in a laran induced coma to prolong his life in the hope that he will be able to fight off the effects of poison, Domenic convinces the Council to accept him as Acting Warden of Hastur and Regent in his father s place Almost immediately he is faced with his first crisis the trailmen s fever outbreak is spreading.Under Domenic s leadership, The effort to save the people of Darkover from the plague brings together the diverse elements of society Renunciate healers, Tower trained leroni, matrix technicians from outside of the Towers, others of the Comyn, to nurse the already infected Meanwhile, Joram, Marguerida, and some of those Darkovans who had once worked for the Terrans work to find a vaccine or treatment, drawing on Joram s knowledge and the records of the last outbreak of the fever In the end, it takes both Terran bioscience and Darkovan to create a vaccine from the blood of a plague survivor, but the process is difficult for the leroni involved, and it seems impossible to make enough in time to prevent the plague from killing off most of the population Marguerida makes a desperate attempt, drawing on all the potential of her shadow matrix, to create enough vaccine to begin a treatment program but in so doing, her consciousness is trapped in the Overworld, and none of the leroni are able to find her and bring her back to her body Domenic then makes his own desperate act, and joins the hands of his mother and father, both unreachable by any normal laran contact While this allows Marguerida and Mikhail to find each other in the Overworld, it is Domenic who brings them back to the physical plane after they have healed each other with the power of Varzil s ring As the novel ends, the epidemic is under control, and the changes brought about by the need to find a cure are starting to ripple through the fabric of Darkovan society.Darkover is changing, and so is the cast of characters that readers had grown used to over so many novels Regis Hastur, who was introduced in the first Darkover novel Bradley wrote, died in The Traitor s Sun The Alton Gift sees the passing of both Javanne Hastur and her husband Gabriel Lew Alton suffers a heart attack, reminding readers that his days too are numbered Marilla Lindir Aillard succumbed to the plague Yet as the old guard passes, Dominic Alton Hastur is coming into his own as the heir to the Regency And a new political landscape has been formed, with formerly unacknowledged nedestro heirs to the dwindling Domains including Domenic s lover Illona Ardais formerly Rider taking their places beside the remaining members of the older Comyn lines, and a Keeper s Council formed to advise the Comyn Joram is teaching Terran science to a selected group of Darkovan students, with the goal of preparing for the eventual return of the Federation The stage is set for the next stage of the Darkovan story This book wasn t badly written, and if you asked me about any individual plotline then I d probably tell you that I liked it The problem is that there were just too many plotlines The episode of trailman s fever and the research necessary to cure it Francisco Ridenow s plot to get vengeance on Mikhail Hastur for, as he sees it, stealing the Ring of Varzil from him the unrest among the commoners and belief that the Comyn are ignoring all their concerns the attempt to pull the Keepers of the This book wasn t badly written, and if you asked me about any individual plotline then I d probably tell you that I liked it The problem is that there were just too many plotlines The episode of trailman s fever and the research necessary to cure it Francisco Ridenow s plot to get vengeance on Mikhail Hastur for, as he sees it, stealing the Ring of Varzil from him the unrest among the commoners and belief that the Comyn are ignoring all their concerns the attempt to pull the Keepers of the Towers into being part of the Comyn Council so that they had a voice in affairs of government Domenic Hastur s relationship with his cousin Alanna, his competing love for Ilona Rider, and the way that Alanna seems to have had her laran channels locked down to prevent her from misusing her gifts Lew wrestling with the demons of his past and his attempt to find peace and the aftereffects of Lew and Marguerida using the Alton Gift in Traitor s Sun to rewrite the memories of the Terran assassination force and how it s obviously a violation of the Compact With all that packed into less than five hundred pages, of course most of it is going to get short shrift And indeed, it does I m not sure if I mdisappointed in Alanna and Domenic s relationship or the trial of Marguerida The first is focused on a lot in the first half of the book, then disappears almost completely for chapters at a time as the trailman s fever plot comes closer to the fore The second comes up in Lew s guilt over his actions, but not at all in Marguerida s thoughts, and then is resolved in less than a page After multiple books hammering home the Compact, how important the Compact is, how the Darkovans see the Compact as the true mark of a civilized society, how it saved their whole civilization from destroying itself with laran based WMD, I was really disappointed to see the resolution come down to Well, I guess it had to be done, so it was okay I m sure all the petty kings in the Ages of Chaos could have made exactly the same justifications for their own use of bonewater dust or fear spells Okay, so what about the other plotlines The trailman s fever one isinteresting, since it s hinted at in the beginning chapter of the book before it flashes back a year, and it s come up in other Darkover books and is always a serious threat In The Alton Gift, a Terran remaining behind on Darkover helps the Darkovans develop a new vaccine, since the Terrans developed a vaccine fifty years ago during the last bout of fever He has a lot of trouble with it, though, until Marguerida tells him that there might be something laran active about the antibodies that he acquired from someone who survived the fever After all, the modern Darkovans are interbred with the chieri, so they may have some elements of alien genetics She suggests using a Tower circle to create the vaccine after the Terran machines repeatedly turn on contradictory results, and thus the epidemic is stopped.Except there s an obvious problem there The Terrans stopped the previous epidemic with their vaccine It s repeatedly referred to as the vaccine that the Terrans provided to the Darkovans, and since Terrans don t believe in psychic powers or, at best, think they re basically useless, they wouldn t have consulted a Tower to make it There s no way that they used laran to make the previous vaccine and no way Darkovan genetics changed that much in fifty years, so this was made artificially difficult to add drama but in a way that s obviously ridiculous Jeram s vaccine should have worked just fine If the book had half of the plots excised and what remained had been givenroom to develop, I would have liked what was left a lot better As it is, a lot of what is here is half baked, or quickly and unsatisfactorily resolved when the book ran out of pages I liked the writing style, but not well enough to forgive the contents This took a very different tone from the previous three Darkover books, probably something to do with the fact the co author was different Still, it was an enjoyable tale of thwarted love and laran powers I do like the way that Deborah J Ross is taking this series and really hope that she continues the modern Darkover books in the same vein. Lots of things resolved, including a strong basis to grow into the future Terranan still lurking but now Darkover seems poised to deal with them when it happens Lots of icky things resolved damned Francisco Ridenow, the petulant brat Alanna, the Altona Gift, and even Domenic has navigated adolescence and his nebulous Gift and found his purpose Best of all, no one important died and some who I d been hoping would have obliged We even get to know assume, since nothing is said aloud about it Lots of things resolved, including a strong basis to grow into the future Terranan still lurking but now Darkover seems poised to deal with them when it happens Lots of icky things resolved damned Francisco Ridenow, the petulant brat Alanna, the Altona Gift, and even Domenic has navigated adolescence and his nebulous Gift and found his purpose Best of all, no one important died and some who I d been hoping would have obliged We even get to know assume, since nothing is said aloud about it what happened with Regis first daughter, Stelli Very sad I only have one book left Hoping to hell it s a strong ending A good continuation of the series For a long time I have loved this series that deals with a low tech colonial world cut off from Earth for thousands of years that developed psychic abilities to offset the lack of metals that would have allowed for technology to have been maintained The complex social and political rules that evolved in a telepathic community are fascinating Now the Comyn are trying to deal with aftermath of the Terrans leaving their planet onceThis book picks up some A good continuation of the series For a long time I have loved this series that deals with a low tech colonial world cut off from Earth for thousands of years that developed psychic abilities to offset the lack of metals that would have allowed for technology to have been maintained The complex social and political rules that evolved in a telepathic community are fascinating Now the Comyn are trying to deal with aftermath of the Terrans leaving their planet onceThis book picks up some of the threads that have existed through several of the previous books including Ridenow s political ambitions, Alanna s troubled personality and Dominick s unique laran Throw in a pandemic in the making and reconciliation of use of the the Alton s Gift equals this novel Unfortunately, not all of these threads are developed as they could have been There has been a big build up for a few books about Dominick and Alanna s romance but it fizzles rather quickly Alanna s personality has been a threat hanging over Marguerida s family for several books but it never really shows her being a threat except as a difficult child and a few premonitions a few books back Her turn around is a little quick too.I loved the political intrigue and that the Terran influence still is having an effect on Darkovian society They didn t just withdraw and fade into history as if they never existed The core of the Darkover series has always been the conflict and the coming together of the Terran Empire and the society that has developed on the planet Both societies have pluses and minuses There are some threads that I wish could be explored in another book but I don t think it will ever happen Dominick s laran was explored a little bitin this book but I would love to see how that develops and what he could do with it There were hints that the Hastur gift of being a living matrix did not die out with Regis I would like to see where that goes.Anyway, I love a visit to Darkover It isn t just a SF adventure but explores issues that are important to us now on Earth Several pages into this new book, it started sounding familiar and sure enough, I had a hardback copy on my shelf I always check before I order so I m not sure how I overlooked this one But I read it again anyway It took no time at all to suck me into the story, as always happens with Darkover books This is a sequel to Traitor s Son, and concerns among other things the aftereffects of Lew and Marguerida Alton s actions on the way to Regis Hastur s funeral It also follows the trials of M Several pages into this new book, it started sounding familiar and sure enough, I had a hardback copy on my shelf I always check before I order so I m not sure how I overlooked this one But I read it again anyway It took no time at all to suck me into the story, as always happens with Darkover books This is a sequel to Traitor s Son, and concerns among other things the aftereffects of Lew and Marguerida Alton s actions on the way to Regis Hastur s funeral It also follows the trials of Marguerida s children, primarily Domenic, the heir, as he starts falling in love and trying to find his place in life An enjoyable return to Darkover, with all the things that make it Darkover, including the ways in which always, in the end, Darkover and Terra need each other even when the Terran Federation has departed the planet entirely.What I was most struck by, though, was one particular story thematic thread view spoiler the way that in the end, Lew Alton manages to forgive himself for all he s done through the years by forgiving others That forgiving others is a path to forgiving oneself and being An enjoyable return to Darkover, with all the things that make it Darkover, including the ways in which always, in the end, Darkover and Terra need each other even when the Terran Federation has departed the planet entirely.What I was most struck by, though, was one particular story thematic thread view spoiler the way that in the end, Lew Alton manages to forgive himself for all he s done through the years by forgiving others That forgiving others is a path to forgiving oneself and being gentle with others is a path to being gentle with oneself is something I ve already been thinking about lately, so seeing it explored here was lovely, and rang very true to me The exploration of how one makes amends in general, and what does and doesn t help with that, rang true, too hide spoiler I do not deserve healing Perhaps But the world does This book makes for an interesting sequel to Bradley s Traitor s Sun , a story which I never realized needed a sequel The writing is excellent, the characters mostly interesting, and the plot better than fair in spite of a few quibbles which I ll get to in a moment It started a bit slowly, and at first a few of the characters seemed a bit wooden, especially Alanna, one half of the initial romantic subplot That subplot itself, largely because of the weakness of her character, was rather trite This book makes for an interesting sequel to Bradley s Traitor s Sun , a story which I never realized needed a sequel The writing is excellent, the characters mostly interesting, and the plot better than fair in spite of a few quibbles which I ll get to in a moment It started a bit slowly, and at first a few of the characters seemed a bit wooden, especially Alanna, one half of the initial romantic subplot That subplot itself, largely because of the weakness of her character, was rather trite and two dimensional, but it developed nicely over time My only other quibbles are two one, the plot device of the epidemic of Trailmen s Fever seemed a bit forced, as did the solution to it it should have been mucheasily solved than it was, ans clearly the difficulties in resolving the problem were a matter of the author transparently stepping in and saying, No, I won t let it be that easy that would prevent my next plot device from being necessary Secondly, for all the difficulties, everything was wrapped up nicely with a bow at the end of the story rarely, either in real life or in Bradley s stories, do things all wind up as perfect as they did here All of the difficult choices are made unnecessary, and happy endings are to be had by all of the main characters, and even secondary ones extras and walk ons had died left and right throughout the story I like a happy ending as much as the next romantic, but past a certain point, in spite of the fact that I can hear my younger self howling at the admission, it starts to seem somewhat cardboard