THE NONBORN KING
Julian May

 


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Book Three of The Saga of Pliocene Exile
Ballantine 1983
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Science Fiction

Felice, possibly the most powerful psychic that humanity will ever know, has changed the face of Pliocene Europe with her vengeance; but she has still not managed to kill Culluket, the sadistic Tanu who flayed open her mind and body in prison. Now descended into madness, she searches the Mediterranean coast wearing the shape of a huge raven, summoning him with her frightening mind powers. Culluket hates the human-Tanu kingdom which has risen from Feliceís devastation, but without its protection, he would be vulnerable to Felice.

Aiken Drum has won the kingship over humans and Tanu by the strength of his mental talents. But there are other people with strong mind powers. In the turmoil of a depleted population, each candidate for dominance has his own faction.

Felice didnít wreak such devastation on her own. When she called for help, she contacted a group of Grand Master metapsychics in North America who lent her their strength. Now the adult children of these exiled Grand Masters see in Felice an opportunity they canít miss. In Europe is the time gate, through which their parents fled from the twenty-second century Galactic Milieu. The children have decided they want to go back.

If the young people succeed in getting through the time gate, the Galactic Milieu government will be able to use the gate, too. The Milieu is not going to just forget the billions of lives lost in the Metapsychic Rebellion led by the Grand Masters, nor is it going to forget Marc Remillard, the rebel leader, now ruling his little band in Pliocene Florida with a mind of iron. To Marc, known as Abaddon or the Angel of the Abyss, it is life or death to his generation of rebels to keep the children from using the time gate.

All the Grand Master humans want to dominate Europe for their own purposes, and aside from Felice, Aiken is their strongest immediate opponent. To kill Aiken they ally themselves with a faction of xenophobic Tanu led by Nodonn Battlemaster. Nodonn was husband to the woman Aiken has taken for his Queen. We have already met her as the succubus Mercy, and she still dreams of Nodonn. Farther north, the human Lowlives oppose any control by any alien species, Tanu or Firvulag. Attempting to heal all of Europe, every species, is Grand Master Elizabeth and her little band of helpers. And the unscrupulous Firvulag are hellbent on wiping out every group but their own, in something their religion calls the Nightfall War Ė Armageddon.

A large cast of individual characters illustrates all the movements and viewpoints leading to the development of new societies. For example, wanderer Tony Wayland, an expert metallurgist, dupe, and hopeless coward, encounters the Tanu, Lowlife, Howler, and Firvulag societies, and still hasnít found his niche. King Sharn and Queen Ayfa of the Firvulag make toys for their children while planning multiple genocide. An unborn boy is destined to drag all of Europe along with his predicted fate.

Author Julian May is a master craftswoman. Even 20 years ago, when The Saga of Pliocene Exile was written, she held more threads in her hand than most authors even imagine. The characters live, the societies have their own tides and currents, the earth breathes. Woven through THE NONBORN KING is a suspenseful progression toward one final standoff which, when it comes, is both a nailbiting confrontation and a cinematic eye pleaser, leaving the reader cheering and breathlessly aghast at the same time.

Condensing THE NONBORN KING to review size means leaving out something important, whatever the reviewer does. Each book of the Pliocene Exile series is more complex than the last until, in THE NONBORN KING, a few of the factions play out their end hands. The final book of the series, THE ADVERSARY, will focus on Marc Remillardís advance on Europe. He will decide his own future, and that of many other people who are unknowingly at the mercy of whatever lies deep in the soul of Abaddon.

Oct 2004 Review

 

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