As with the bloody Black Blade (1999), Lustbader again abandons his Ninja action tales to return to the fantasy and foam of his earlier Sunset Warrior cycles. Will loyal fans find this moonglow too greatly at odds with his somersaulting thrillers and perhaps not cross over?
Things open with an overstuffed prologue, adrift in orientalia (“It was Lonon, the Fifth Season—that eerie time between High Summer and Autumn when the gimnopedes swarmed; when, on clear nights, all five moons, pale green as a dove’s belly, could be seen in the vast black bowl of night”). Readers lacking photographic memory will tremble at the elaborate background Lustbader sets up even before the story begins, a vast scheme ringing echoes on a half dozen other far-world phantasmagorias galloping toward Tor to be born. So it is that Giyan and Bartta, female twins, are born and, rather than having them killed, their mother ships them off to be raised as Ramahan at the Abbey of Floating White. By age 15, the twins, devoted to phytochemistry and the Goddess Miina, are versed in the religious politics of their day: their people, the Kundalan, now in bondage to the V’ornn, will be released only when Dar Sala-at returns to fulfill the prophecy made in The Five Sacred Books of Miina, finds The Pearl and defeats the V’ornn (a mission mirroring the messianic salvation brought by Paul Atreides in Dune). Who is the Dar Sala-at? None other than Riane, a girl V’ornn (raised as the enemy, for better or worse), whose burgeoning sorcerer’s energy will bring lightning to the sky, presaging the appearance of Miina’s Sacred Five Dragons.
As they beg our sympathy for their white-knuckled grief, these heroines speak a rhetoric that itself must have been bounced off the five moons. Still, this midnight dish will leave many disembodied with rapture.