Bewildering Stories

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Book Review:
Eric Van Lustbader Mistress Of The Pearl

Jerry Wright

Mistress Of The Pearl
Author: Eric Van Lustbader
Publisher: TOR
Hardcover: April 2004
Length: 592 pp
ISBN: 0312872372
Price: $27.95

When I first started this book, it felt rather formulaic. However, Mistress Of The Pearl turns out to be quite a good read. The planet Kundala has been conquered by "evil" V'orrn, a militaristic race who just got their collective butts kicked by another alien race even more powerful than they.

The V'orrn, whose gods are science and technology, find the mystical, magical world of Kundala a hard knot to untie, or even slash (ala Alexander) because so much of what is happening violates their world-view. It seems that the only reason they were able to conquer the Kundalans is that M'iina, the Goddess of Kundala, has turned her back on the planet's inhabitants, because they were turning away from her and searching after such things as necromancy.

Some of Van Lustbader's efforts to be different turn on such things as jaw-cracking names such as Khagggun or Mesagggun, lots of names with tripled consonants. To begin with this is rather distracting from the flow of the story, but the reader soon gets used to such oddities. The complex, convoluted plot, and the frequent shifts in viewpoint of the various protagonists grab ahold of the readers and drag them kicking and screaming into the depths of the book.

The characters are well drawn and complex, especially Riane, a Kundalan woman who has become the messianic "Dar Sala-at" who also holds within her brain the mind of a murdered V'orrn named Annon Ashera, and Kurgon, teen-aged Regent of the V'orrn, rapist, murderer, and pawn.

My initial reaction to this book was that anyone who enjoys Dragonlance books or the works of Weis and Hickman would love this book, and this remains true, but Mistress Of The Pearl is actually much better than what my original reaction would might signify.

Van Lustbader has written a book that stands well on its own, and one need not have read the previous two books in this series to both enjoy the book, and understand what is going on. The book also ends on a high point, but much of the world of Kundala and the interactions between the various groups are still to be discovered. So, this is not the end for this "multi-volume epic" and present and future fans of Van Lustbader will NOT be disappointed.

Copyright © 2004 by Jerry Wright and Bewildering Stories

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