This is the third and last book of the Stratification trilogy, within a bigger story arc. Click here for a review of Reap the Wild Wind. And here for Riders of the Storm.
The world as they know it holds three separate races: the Oud, the Tikitik, and the Aryl’s people, the Om’ray. The three races live in peace due to an Agreement reached generations earlier. One of the accords is a directive that nothing changes the adepts interpret that to mean that evolving talents within the population must be culled. In the last book, Aryl and her small band of exiled Om’ray settled into an abandoned village while Enris had continued on Passage to explore their planet and meet other clans. Enris had discovered a concerted effort to keep the Om’ray clans separate so that knowledge and technology was not shared or advanced. Aryl and her exiles have learned to use the M’hir to teleport. The adepts’ warnings about the M’hir are taken with advisement but the new Sona clan question their motives. The M’hir is a mysterious “other place” through which the Om’ray travel when they teleport and it may be inhabited. Aryl’s human friend, Marcus Bowman, is still working with the Oud to uncover ancient Hoveny ruins. His observations and what Aryl finds inside the mysterious Cloisters starts to suggest a training program for her people and the hint that they were once something much more. Every Om’ray clan has a building called the Cloisters with alien construction and technology and only the Clan are allowed inside; both the Oud and the Tikitik are unable to enter. The construction of the Cloisters and the obvious technology suggests that somebody on the planet Cersi was more advanced at one time.
The differences that caused the exiles to come to Sona are continuing to multiply; more children are born that are different. More of the Sona Om’ray have learned to ‘port thru the M’hir and are considering the possibilities: safer Passage for Unchosen, fast trade with far-off clans… but the changes are being noticed by the Tikitik and Oud changes that challenge the balance of power on Cersi. For reasons the Om’ray have never understood, the Oud and Tikitik seem to compete for the Om’ray clans some ‘belong’ to Tikitik and some to Oud. And when Balance is off, they ‘trade’ clans. The problem is that the Oud live in dry climes and the Tikitik in swamps so when they ‘trade’ clans, they totally change the ecosystem. The process is somewhat …damaging to the Om’ray.
When Enris visited the Om’ray clan Vyna he discovered a clan that had so changed, so twisted itself, to be almost unrecognizable as Om’ray. They deliberately created fatherless fetuses and “downloaded” a long-dead mind into their children; keeping knowledge but never creating anything new. He also found that the Tikitik were concerned about protecting the Vyna. But to save Naryn and her unfathered child, they would have to go to Vyna for help to allow a long-dead adept mind to take Naryn’s fetus and save both mother and child. They succeeded but the Vyna did their best to kill them rather than allow them to leave. They were forced to call for Marcus to rescue them as their ability to ‘port was blocked. Marcus was in the process of checking the other human archaeological sites because he had lost contact with the other humans. Unfortunately, the flight takes them precariously close to the edge of their world a barrier that no Om’ray, Oud or Tikitik can cross. A barrier that keeps the three races in close proximity on a very small portion of the whole planet. The effect of being so close to the barrier causes a level of panic in Aryl and Enris forcing them to ‘port home. To their shock, hundreds of other Om’ray from all different clans (except the Vyna) teleported at the same instant to the same location. All of them felt the same compulsion to go home. And for hundreds of Om’ray, home is now Sona.
Meanwhile, Marcus found nothing but destruction and death for his co-workers who had been attacked by pirates who managed to capture Marcus to force him to do their bidding. Aryl and Enris killed them all but Marcus was too damaged to survive. They also discovered that the pirates murdered all the neighboring Oud, leaving a power vacuum, of sorts. One of the Tikitik advised Aryl that all these changes: no Oud to claim Sona, and a shift of Om’ray population would destroy all three races. Ayrl had to find someplace to take her Sona that would not kill the remaining Om’ray. As alien an idea as it was, the only place she could think of was off-world a concept that was just barely understandable to her and incomprehensible to the rest of the Om’ray. But the only person who could give her a visual location to which to ‘port was Marcus. And Marcus was so damaged by the pirates, it was obvious that her dear friend would die. To ask him to open his mind at such a time was cruel and torturous. But without a safe haven for the Sona, everyone on Cersi including Tikitik and Oud might die.
This story was so complex that I just cannot do justice to a synopsis. There is so much more to say about the complexity of Cersi, the three races that live on it, and their mysterious history. The hints that tell of hidden agendas, unknowable motives, and lost history are just so tantalizing for the reader. Much was revealed in this book but more mysteries appeared. And I can’t even summarize the last quarter of the book because too much would be given away. If you like this series, you can’t stop until you’re read this book. The worldbuilding is phenomenal. The characters are fascinating and so changeable. I can hardly wait to see the endgame Czerneda has another trilogy planned. I don’t know if that will be the last of the story, but it may be. Keep watch, I’ll be posting more reviews soon. ~~ Catherine Book