(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Although Black Trillium can be read as a simple heroic quest, with the twist that the protagonists are female, there are other levels of meaning. In their other works, Bradley and Norton write of cultures in which technology is not held in high esteem, and May’s novels show an understanding of ecology and the balance of nature. All three emphasize that although technology may be a means to an end, it can get out of control, causing people to lose a sense of connection to their work, to the people around them, and to their place in the overall scheme of things. It can also lend credence to the view that might makes right, or that because one has the power to do a thing, one has the right to do it.

The protagonists of this novel question that assumption. Their ancestors had great technological prowess. They are gone, but their machines remain. The Sword of Power is one of these. Those who made it were, in the end, reluctant to use it; instead, they disassembled it into three pieces, placing each in a separate hiding place. The princesses learn that even separately, the talismans can kill, and they are cautioned about using a device so powerful that the ability to use it wisely was doubted by its creators. Conversely, the main antagonist in the novel is a sorcerer who believes that “might makes right.” He possesses some paranormal abilities and has augmented his power through the discovery of a cache of machines left by the ancient ones....

(The entire section is 494 words.)