It takes a special kind of author to manage the writing of a nine volume series. And an even rarer author who can write a long series that will stand up to intensive reading. Sheri Tepper is once such author that has the knack. When the volumes of the Lands of the True Game first came out Tepper was a little known writer, breaking into the world of science fiction and fantasy. By the writing of this volume, the last in the series, Tepper was an established writer with a loyal audience.
It is hard to point to any one volume, character or idea and say that this is what made the work so successful. And perhaps that is part of Tepper's secret, her ability to shift point of view and narrator, introduce new and spectacular characters, and add layer upon layer to a complex world. Through her three protagonists, Peter, Jinian and Mavin we explore a world where both magic, science, ecology and witchcraft happily blend together without a single hitch.
This is Mavin's last tale, finally come to fulfill her promise to Himaggery and meet him after 20 years in the city of Pfarb Durim. Quite a lot has gone into get there again, and Mavin is stunned to find that Himaggery is not to be found. That eight years earlier the wizard set out and a quest and was eaten up by it. Windlow the Seer knows that his friend is not dead, but all efforts to find him have failed. Now Himaggery's quest must become Mavin's quest as she slowly retraces his steps to uncover betrayal and mystery in a story full of old friends and new enemies.
This is Mavin's greatest test. Not because it takes great courage or incredible wits to survive, but because Mavin find's herself facing her real issues as a woman and a shifter. Finding Himaggery and returning the wizard to himself turn out to be to separate and difficult thinks. Maven's need for freedom and independent conflict with her commitment, and she begins to find that responsibility is a lump thing about which one must always make difficult choices. Finding that she has managed to conceive Himaggery's child introduces another layer of complication, and forces her to discover that Mavin need not shift to be Mavin.
But who Mavin really is and how she will save both Himaggery and herself is the crux of the book. Even more so than it is a tricksy tale of harpies and shadows. Mavin's trilogy does much to open of the Tepper's world to the reader and lay the groundwork for the other stories in the series. It is a world that will remain on my shelves forever, waiting for the next time I need to follow the Eesties road.