After dallying with Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Ancestors of Avalon (2004), Paxson returns to her longstanding series about a post-apocalyptic/alternate-world California (The Jewel of Fire, etc.).
Red-headed Phoenix, son of King Julian, and his friend Sombra must go on their coming-of-age vision quests. Sombra, enlightened by a white dragon, becomes Luz; Phoenix meets his disgraced grandfather, Jehan, and becomes Johan. Luz heads off to study magic; Jo, unsure of his father’s affections, is kidnapped by slavers and believed dead by all save Luz, whose mental affinity tells her that Jo survives. When his owner attempts to use him sexually, Jo summons a berserk rage and kills the man; after a severe beating, he’s sold to a circus and trained as a gladiator. His personality splits, and splits again: He’s rarely Phoenix; sometimes he’s the affable slave Red; when grandfather visits, he’s Jehan; in the arena, the berserker, Dragon, commands. Meanwhile, Mother Mahalial, possessed of the sun god's powers, promises her followers the land of Westria; with her brilliant general Tadeo Marsh, her armies sweep all before them. Julian gives battle, but cannot stop the Suns, and one by one Westria’s cities fall. The Suns also capture Jo, whose strangeness delights Mahalial; he becomes her talisman, hypnotized to do her bidding (as the child personality, Fix) and to fight as her Red Dragon. Luz sets forth to find Jo; but even if she rescues him and restores his shattered mentality, how may the mighty Mother and her Suns be defeated?
Should please Westria loyalists. Others will find it clogged with recycled Native-American folklore and beliefs, syrupy with New Age folderol and seeming hundreds of pages longer than it should be.