Czerneda started her stories of the Clan Chronicles with A Thousand Words for Stranger, followed by Ties of Power and ending with To Trade The Stars click on each title to read a review. In this new trilogy, she takes us to the home planet of the Clan and their beginnings which are stranger than one might imagine.
The Om’ray live on a planet called Cersi and co-habit with two other races: the Oud who control the plains and underground, and the Tikitik who control the swamps and wetlands. The three races live in peace due to an Agreement made generations earlier. The three terms of the Agreement are that the division and Agreement have always existed, that Om’ray are allowed to trespass anywhere necessary while on Passage to find a mate, and that nothing ever changes to challenge the balance.
Aryl Sarc lives in a swamp where her clan of Om’ray, the Yena, live in homes in trees. It is a harsh environment full of threats but the Om’ray have learned how to exist in peace. Their homes and the protection of glows which keep the night hunters at bay are all traded from the Tikitik. The Om’ray hold a yearly harvest which feeds them and the Tikitik for a year. Aryl and her best friend Bern are happy with their lot while laughing at their peers as they mature and become Chooser and Unchosen something children everywhere would understand.
In the Om’ray physiology, at a point in a female’s life, she changes and becomes a Chooser; sending a siren call telepathically which all eligible males will hear and be unable to resist. Om’ray from great distances will set out on Passage to answer that call. She will then Choose one and the Choosing will set in motion the actual maturing of their bodies. Once fully matured, the Chosen pair will be able to procreate. It is an inevitable and irresistible process.
Aryl doesn’t want to be anything special but there are things she can do that no one else can. She can use a dark force to sense farther than most can, and to move herself in the space of a thought. She names this dark force/place the M’hir. This is a particular concern to her mother, an adept. The adepts are the governing force of their society. Since one of the tenets of the Agreement is that nothing must ever change the adepts are always on guard against new and different talents emerging.
During the harvest, a strange mechanical flying device appears and causes a terrible catastrophe claiming many lives in the clan. During the event, Aryl sees both her brother and her best friend dying and in a terrible moment makes a terrible decision: she saves her best friend, Bern. The manner in which she saves him could cost her life should the adepts suspect the depth of her power. The loss of so many and lack of a full harvest draws the unwanted attention of their resident Tikitiks who demand to know what caused the event.
In another clan of the Om’ray is a young man named Enris. The Oud protect/own his village and one day, an Oud delivers a strange object to his father’s blacksmith shop with an order to examine and identify the device. Enris becomes convinced that the object had been made by Om’ray but with unknown technology. But the concept is overwhelming; after all, nothing has ever changed in all their history and Om’ray have never had any technology. All they have comes from either the Oud or the Tikitik. Enris is forced out of his village on Passage when a powerful and forceful young Chooser sets her sights on him. To his and everyone else’s surprise, Enris is able to reject the siren call of the Chooser. This in an unheard of use of power. Enris decides that he will never submit to a Chooser and decides to use his Passage to explore his world and see more of the other clans.
Meanwhile, Aryl happens upon something unbelievable: two creatures speaking an unknown language. One looks like Om’ray but is empty inside. The Om’ray are able to telepathically sense and communicate with all other Om’ray. To see a form that looks like them but cannot be sensed seems unreal to them. But such a creature cannot exist on their world … and there are no other worlds. What Aryl found were two researchers from The Trade Pact worlds who were searching for archaeological evidence of an ancient race called Hoveny. One of their probes disrupted the harvest and caused the tragic deaths. Somehow the Tikitik were also aware of the aliens and took Aryl in an attempt to use her to contact the aliens.
Aryl is taken to the alien’s camp and does manage to make contact. And she would never be the same again. Everything about the aliens and the concepts they share with her shake all the beliefs her people hold. But she ends up becoming friends with the Human, Marcus Bowman.
Enris has his own encounter with Humans, also challenging his belief system but he is resilient. He and Aryl get thrown together and that’s when things get really interesting. Just as Enris is explaining to her that he has seen technology obviously made by Om’ray, Aryl gets a telepathic message from her mother that her clan is being attacked. Without much thought and no preparation, she instinctively reaches through the M’hir bringing Enris with her back to Yena. They discover the village is in the throes of a full-out attack by the Tikitiks who are removing all the glows from the village leaving it defenseless to the night hunters. Aryl gathers together survivors and takes them to the adepts at the village’s Cloisters, another anomaly of technology that no one understands. The adepts then inform many of the survivors that they must leave; that something has upset the balance which caused the Tikitik to withdraw their protection. The adepts identify twenty-one individuals whose powers challenge the balance of power and then exile them in the hope that the action will placate the Tikitiks. No one expects the group to survive the night. But Aryl, spotting a Human probe, sends a plea to the Human to save her little doomed group. The Human takes them to the closest Om’ray clan, the Grona. This is where her best friend, Bern, ended up after his Passage took him away from her. But he is now bound to a powerful and petty adept who has a pretty good idea of what Aryl is capable of doing. And she wants the secret of the M’hir. To escape her and Bern’s machinations, Aryl leaves everyone and just starts walking. Unsurprisingly, Enris joins her on the road. But what is really surprising to her is that all twenty-one of her Yena also follow her. For an immature young Yena who had little to her account, it is obvious to all but her, that she is one of the most powerful of them all. And so the story ends: with a tiny band of outcasts traveling into the unknown.
Boy, this was a lot to digest and I didn’t summarize everything. I love the hints and suggestions that the Om’ray were once something more and I wonder more and more why it is that the Om’ray seem almost slaves of the Oud and Tikitik. The worldbuilding is wonderful and the characters are well-drawn. I really enjoyed the story even though the ending was pretty unsatisfactory there were no answers to any of the big questions. The next book better satisfy more… ~~ Catherine Book