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Mistress of the Pearl: The Pearl Book 3    by Eric Van Lustbader order for
Mistress of the Pearl
by Eric Van Lustbader
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though still daunted by the complexity of this series, I am increasingly in awe of Eric Van Lustbader's powers of imagination - and my fifteen-year-old son has surprised me by devouring the Pearl books almost over my shoulder. I enjoyed this third episode more than the previous two, and it looks like there will be many more in this multilayered universe. What's unusual about the series is that it incorporates both technology and magical elements, often at odds with each other (V'ornn technomancy versus Kundalan sorcery).

As this episode opens, Rekkk has been transformed, partly through his love for Giyan, into the Kundalan 'Nawatir', and is loved by Konara Inggres. Bad guy Regent Kurgan Stogggul has spotted Riane and Eleana in the ruins of Za Hara-at, and has found and hidden the ninth banestone, which is sought by the Dark League. Kurgan is obsessed with Eleana, while he continues to plot against the Gyrgon who control him (by the end of this volume, Kurgan's going through a transformation of his own). We learn that the V'ornn fear a powerful enemy, the Centophennni, who have easily annihilated V'ornn battle fleets, and seem to be on a search and destroy mission. The V'ornn have no defence against their enemies' goron-based weapons.

Kurgan's sister Marethyn has joined the Resistance, who don't exactly trust her. Gradually, through many violent encounters in which friends die, she develops into a leader. Nith Sahor, now embodied in Eleana's son (magically accelerated to adulthood), seeks out Gyrgon secrets. Star Admiral Pnin's despised daughter Leyytey manipulates and betrays her abusive husband to save her father. And Sarakkon Krystren journeys long and hard to fight necromancers. Eventually she meets and aids Giyan at the Abbey of Five Pivots. Riane, Eleana and Rappa Thigpen return to Axis Tyr in quest of the Pearl, and are trapped by the monstrous Hagoshrin, who ultimately is not what they expect at all. Riane eventually finds her way to the Abbey of Summit Window where she meets Asir and discovers her Tchakira roots.

As is clear from the selection summarized above, there are a great many story threads. Scenes from all of them are interleaved, driven by fast action, and usually ending in a cliffhanger. This unique series is not for the faint hearted, either in the complexity of its weave or in the gory brutality of its action scenes. But if you're interested in taking the time to immerse yourself in an alien universe in violent upheaval, then The Pearl has a lot to offer, including unusual species, intriguing technomagical elements, regular excursions into the otherworld, and inter-species romances that transcend physical bodies. It will be interesting to see what comes next - the Centophennni perhaps?

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