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Mistress Of The Pearl
Eric Van Lustbader
Tor hardcover £13.99

review by Cristopher Hennessey-DeRose

Eric Van Lustbader continues his Pearl fantasy series with this latest instalment, the third book thus far in a series that seems to be able to go on into at least a fourth volume.

While difficult to sum up plot points and their effect in an ongoing story as this one is, it is even harder to do so given Lustbader's knack for wielding a complex plotline such as the one found in this series. Put simply, on Kundala, the V'ornn are going about the business of conquest while trying to quash any hope the Kundalans may have in the leader of the uprising, Riane, who harbours the consciousness of a deceased V'ornn. Between twists of both personality and plot, it becomes clear that the Kundalans can only depend on true hope through the Pearl, which Riane must find. Combine this with the complications given by the Gyrgon technomages, who have aspirations of creating a Kundala-V'ornn hybrid species, with horrifying results for those whom they experiment on, and one finds a thought-provoking read through the world Lustbader has created and obviously enjoys playing, despite the great conflicts he subjects his characters to.

But Mistress Of The Pearl is not purely a study in the dynamics of war and oppression from both sides. Indeed, the swordplay and action sequences readers of his have grown to know from such previous works as The Ring Of Five Dragons, The Veil Of A Thousand Tears, and The Cage Of Nine Banestones, is present here, as well. The act of creating a fantasy world and throwing both technology and religion into the mix may not be new, but it is difficult to do, and even harder with any authoritative voice from the author. Such fears (as Lustbader has shown with his previous volumes) continue to be unfounded here.

The characters develop continues in Lustbader's world. While this is an obvious point that all ongoing stories should feature, it is one that not all do, allowing the characters to become little more than cardboard cut-outs moving from one scene to another, without any real dimension. Lustbader avoids this trap. There is zero room for flashbacks or other plot devices that would allow a reader to pick this epic in mid-stride in this volume, and by and large, it is the better for it, allowing the reader more familiar with the work to simply wade back into the world. Using past history is tricky, especially in a universe that is as much in constant motion as this one is.

Fans of Lustbader's fantasy work will eat this one up, and will find the ending (complete with the kind of twist readers have come to expect from this author) only whets the appetite for more.
Mistress of the Pearl

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