1985’s Changer’s Moon is the third and final novel in Jo Clayton’s Duel of Sorcery trilogy.
Ser Noris, bored and powerful beyond reason, is nearing the end of his game with the Goddess. At stake is an entire world. Noris has succeeded in bending all but a few of the world’s mages to his will, and subjecting most of the world to his cruel, misogynistic theocracy. True, the Biserica Valley (refuge of the Goddess followers) is still holding out … but surely its fall is only a matter of time.
Standing between the Goddess and the jaded wizard is a mortal woman, a green-skinned mutant sorceress named Serroi.
A vast army is marching towards the Biserica, armed with magic and terrible weapons. The Biserica has impressive defences, but it seems likely that these will only inconvenience the invaders, not defeat them. Ser Noris has reserves, after all, and is entirely comfortable with the idea of sending thousands of his subjects off to die. They are not Ser Noris, after all, and one does not become the paramount mage of an entire world if hobbled by empathy.
Serroi, on the other hand, does have empathy, which is why she has allies and not subjects. She knows that her allies cannot hope to stand against the coming force. No surprise, then, that she will go to extremes to win new allies, allies with weapons never seen before in her world.
In the previous book, Serroi and her lover Hern won a boon from the Changer, also known as Coyote. The Coyote’s Mirror grants images of other worlds. Serroi may select and bring to her world what she chooses, once. Some might have chosen a magic weapon or a djinn, perhaps. Serroi brings refugees.
In a world not unlike ours, a nation akin to the United States is sliding into an age of wilful ignorance and violence. Intellectuals like Julia, homosexuals like her neighbour, indeed everyone who is unconventional face violence and eventual extermination. Like Serroi and her allies, the despised have been forced into an isolated refuge. Doom is imminent.
Serroi offers Julia and her friends a way out. Follow Serroi back through the Coyote’s Mirror to Serroi’s world and trade certain extermination for a chance of victory. Julia’s world has no knowledge of magic. Instead, it has advanced technology unknown in Serroi’s world. True, the refugees will only have the supplies they bring with them but it may be enough to turn the tide. Divided, Serroi and Julia’s friends are doomed. Together, they have hope.
One cannot help but wonder if the matter-of-fact way Clayton handles rapes in this series is intended as a take-that against the male readers at whom so many rapetastic DAW novels had been aimed. Clayton isn’t aiming to titillate, which must have come as a disappointment to all the Gor fans.
When the book revealed the Julia subplot, I was jarred. Had text from an entirely unrelated novel been bound into this one? Once I figured out what was going on, I could focus on the parallels between the two plot lines. I was reminded of many Andre Norton novels, which also feature hi-tech worlds only a portal away from fantasy realms.
It’s a testament to my keenly honed reading comprehension (ha!) that I laboured under the delusion that there was a fourth book in the trilogy. My hopes were dashed. But I should have paid more attention to the teaser on the cover: THE FINAL NOVEL OF THE DUEL OF SORCERY. Final. Yes.
(Perhaps there’s some excuse: my expectations may have been shaped by all the four and five book trilogies out there. Or even by all the endless fantasy series heading nowhere in particular.)
Clayton takes advantage of the actual ENDING. There’s no need to hold characters in reserve for later use. Nobody has plot armour in this volume, which will be bad news for people who have favourite characters. Sure kept things exciting, however. Yay endings! More authors should write them.