by Sydney van Scyoc
I have found it is not hard to read a 600-page-plus book at all, if it's one you're interested in! This was my last attempt to complete the 9 for '09 Challenge, and I finally did it. I'm finding it difficult to know what to say about Daughters of the Sunstone, though. The entire time I was reading I kept wanting to discuss with someone, and tell my husband about it. But the little I told intrigued him so much, he made me quit saying anything, for fear I would give it away. Because now he wants to read it himself! And I don't want to write spoilers here, either, but it may be difficult to say anything without saying too much! So I'll try to be discreet, but you've been forewarned.
Well, here goes. Daughters of the Sunstone is actually three volumes in one: Darkchild, Bluesong and Starsilk. It is set eons in the future, when humankind has left Earth to populate other planets, scattered far and wide. Such a long time has elapsed that humans have evolved differently on the new plantes, to adapt to new environments. Brakrath was a planet not really suitable for settlement. Humans only landed there by accident, stranded for what they thought would be a brief while, that stretched out into centuries. In the meantime, they found a way to survive the harsh environment and built a culture around a few women invested with tremendous power- the very power of the sun. A power drawn to warm the valleys and extend the growing season but also very dangerous to wield. Khira is born into this culture as a palace daughter, and due to strictures of tradition, finds herself all alone in the palace for the long winter.
One morning she wakens to find someone in the empty palace with her- a strange boy, devoid of emotion or personality, lonely, empty and lost. She befriends him and teaches him everything, unaware that he is really a tool sent from an alien race, a child whose mind has been programmed to gather information in order to exploit her planet's resources. Although she sees Darkchild only as her friend, others see something more sinister in him and recognize the threat. While Kira struggles to know what she must do- protect her friend, or her people? flee from or embrace her duties? the boy Darkchild wrestles with the duplicity he comes to recognize in himself. Can he be more than just a pawn, working out the hostile intent of an alien race? can he assert his own will and be whole?
The second novel, Bluesong, is the story of the next generation. Due to new contact with offplanet humankind, some children are born with entirely new characteristics. They don't fit in the rigid structure of Brakrath society. There is no place for them in tradition. Danior and Kira are born in different valleys, yet they are both desperately searching for a sense of belonging, and share a common destiny. When their paths cross, they find themselves traveling to strange unknown places on Brakrath, into harsh lands where savage tribes war constantly. Kira finds that against her will, her very presence in the desert stirs up greater violence, yet she may be the only one who can bring peace, if she can learn to control the power of the sunstone in a way no one has done before. And Danior must find the answers to his own quest, to return to his home valley with tales of wonders greater than anyone has ever heard, with answers to questions no one had thought to ask...
The final story, Starsilk, finds Danior's sister Reyna confronted with new information that will change forever how her culture operates. Driven by desperation to fulfill her role in society and yet avoid the grim outcome she now knows is inevitable, she sets off on a quest further than any palace daughter has ever gone- to a distant planet. With a companion and a guide, she seeks to find a man who has been lost for a hundred years, yet whose voice still speaks across the stars. If against all odds he still lives, Reyna intends to find him. What she and her companions encounter is a land with sentient creatures bound together in a way stranger than anyone could have imagined.
And now I've got to stop myself before I say to much. Really, I've only scratched the surface here. These stories are complex, with very real characters who inhabit an entirely unique universe thought-out in every detail. They grapple with enormous dilemmas, facing emotional turmoil, trying to make sense of their lives and the new changes happening to their once-isolated planet. Each of the stories has wide-reaching implications, yet they're told from a very personal perspective that makes them so engaging. It's a fascinating trilogy, with unexpected complications at every turn. I was full of anticipation to the very last page. Now I'm eager to find any other books by Sydney van Scyoc- she's a fantastic writer and I'd love to visit whatever other strange worlds she's created.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 697 pages, 1984
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