cover image MISTRESS OF THE PEARL: Volume Three of the Pearl

MISTRESS OF THE PEARL: Volume Three of the Pearl

Eric Van Lustbader, . . Tor, $27.95 (592pp) ISBN 978-0-312-87237-3

Fans of bestseller Lustbader will welcome the third hefty installment in his Pearl fantasy series (after 2002's The Veil of a Thousand Tears ), with its wildly complex plot, breathless action and jaw-breaking nomenclature (Khagggun, Mesagggun, etc.), though newcomers might wish they had a roadmap. On the planet Kundala, the conquering V'ornn are having trouble subduing the natives, who have a champion in the woman Riane, aka "the Dar Sala-at, the fabled savior, destined to lead the Kundalan uprising against their alien V'ornn oppressors." Meanwhile, Annon, a dead V'ornn whose consciousness survives within Riane, shows that some V'ornn are worthy of the reader's sympathy. Riane's friend Eleana, who loved Annon, finds herself strangely attracted to Riane. The Kundalans' ultimate salvation, however, rests in securing the mystical Pearl. Tolkien's rings (reflected in the Pearl's "banestones") and the pseudo-Islamicism of Herbert's Dune are among the author's many obvious literary influences, while in a display of tongue-in-cheek humor three V'ornn admirals act a bit like the Three Stooges. Lustbader keeps scene-setting to a minimum ("Sapphire evening spread its wings over the great steppe") amid all the fighting and skullduggery. A surprise twist at the end serves as a springboard to a fourth volume. (Mar. 25)