The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The novel opens sometime in the future on Mars, a cold, dry world littered with the ruins of an advanced civilization. Matt Carse, a rogue archaeologist from Earth, is approached by a local thief who gives him a sword as proof that he has found the tomb of Rhiannon, a legendary evil god. In the tomb, however, the untrustworthy thief knocks Carse into a glowing mass of energy that throws him millions of years into the past, when Mars was the home of several competing intelligent races.

Carse finds himself in the capital of Sark, the human empire allied with a mysterious race that evolved from the Serpents who were tutored by Rhiannon before he was imprisoned by his fellow gods. Carse is mistaken for a spy from Khondor, a rival city, and enslaved in one of the galleys sailing the Martian oceans. His unbreakable independence attracts the attention and hostility of Ywain, the haughty warrior princess of Sark. In a confrontation, Carse overpowers her, kills her Serpent adviser, and seizes command of the ship.

Carse sails to Khondor, where humans cooperate with semihuman races whose native element is the sea or the sky. He is first welcomed but then is denounced by Emer, a princess who shares some of the aquatic Swimmers’ telepathic powers. She reveals that the spirit of Rhiannon was alive in his tomb and now inhabits the back of Carse’s mind. Briefly possessed by that spirit, Carse screams that Rhiannon repents helping the Serpents and wants to...

(The entire section is 530 words.)