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Comes the Flood

Well of Shiuan  (Morgaine, volume 2)

By C J Cherryh 

29 Jan, 2023

Because My Tears Are Delicious To You


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1978’s Well of Shiuan is the second volume in C. J. Cherryh’s Morgaine series.

Jherun faces two pressing challenges. Her immediate concern is that she does not want to be married off. In her culture, marriage is a test to see how much work a woman can do before dying of childbirth. Her longer-term concern is rising sea levels. For reasons that are poorly understood, the oceans are inexorably rising. One day, not so long from now, all terrestrial life on her planet will drown.

She is out barrow-robbing when she encounters a stranger. Not someone from another domain or another continent; he’s from another world.

Chya Roh has reached Jherun’s realm through a gate that links distant times and places. He is being pursued and does not linger. He fends off an attack by the men of Jherun’s village and leaves in quest of another gate, in far-but-not-too-far Shiuan.

Jherun follows Roh, hoping for something better than marriage to a brute. She crosses paths with Roh’s cousin Nhi Vanye and also with Vanye’s pale lady, Morgaine. They have also recently come through the gate. According to the pair, Roh is not Roh but rather an evil being who commandeered Roh’s body before fleeing to Jherun’s world. The story is hard to believe; if he had been evil, wouldn’t he have killed his attackers rather than just fending them off?

Morgaine has more urgent reasons for visiting Jherun’s world than catching a body thief. The gates are artifacts left by a civilization whose skills far outreached their wisdom. Used improperly, they are an existential threat to space-time. Morgaine’s true mission is to locate gates in order to permanently disable them.

The being looking out of Roh’s eyes is determined to survive at any cost. He finds it easy to recruit allies on Jherun’s drowning world. The gate Morgaine is determined to close is the only means of escape to another world. Roh discloses this route off-planet and soon gains an army of well-connected, desperate people determined to protect Roh, who promises to lead them to safety.

If Morgaine tries to intervene, even her advanced weapons may not protect her.


I wouldn’t call Jherun the protagonist of this novel, but she’s one of the main figures. Does she get plot armour? Well … not many characters of her significance die in book two of what is clearly intended to be at least a trilogy1. However, this is a C. J. Cherryh novel and her novels often don’t end happily. If you really want to know: [rot 13]Wureha qbrf abg rfpncr ure qebjavat jbeyq, vafgrnq rzoenpvat gur zrnter pbzsbeg gung gur jbeyq jvyy abg qebja ragveryl hagvy nsgre fur qvrf bs byq ntr[/rot13].

I am not crazy about Whelan’s cover for this entry but at least his art is better than the Alan Craddock cover that graces the Magnum edition.

Although this series is often categorized as fantasy and although most of the characters would firmly assert they are dealing with magic, the text makes it clear that this is an SF novel featuring sufficiently advanced technology developed by an insufficiently prudent civilization. In fact, Morgaine comes from the Alliance-Union setting, and is perhaps the last survivor of a Union team tasked with shutting down the gate network.

This is a rather gloomy novel. True, the chronic exhaustion that features in so many other Cherryh novels doesn’t feature prominently here, but this planet is dealing with incessant rain and inexorably rising tides. There is no convenient solution that will leave everyone alive and happy: if the gate at Shiuan is closed, everyone who did not pass through is trapped in a doomed world. Leaving it open means that some well-meaning person could crash space-time2. Again. This would not be so bad if the characters could be sorted into good and bad pigeonholes (and the good folk survived). Too bad that the characters come in shades of gray; everyone has good reasons to act as they do. Never read Cherryh if what you want is an unambiguous, happy ending.

Well of Shiuan does not appear to be available on its own, but it is included in The Complete Morgaine omnibus, which is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Book Depository)), and here (Chapters-Indigo).

1: The Morgaine series includes four installments to date: Gate of Ivrel (1976), Well of Shiuan(1978), Fires of Azeroth (1979), and Exile’s Gate (1988). I have read the first three but not the last, which seems too long delayed to have been part of the story as originally envisioned by Cherryh.

2: I note that the world to which Shiuan’s gate leads may not be ready to host a horde of refugees.