Reviews: Clayton, Jo

Silent in the Trees

Changer’s Moon — Jo Clayton
Duel of Sorcery, book 3

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.

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Strange Phenomena

Skeen’s Leap — Jo Clayton
Skeen, book 1

1986’s Skeen’s Leap is the first volume in Jo Clayton’s Skeen trilogy.

Skeen is her own creation, from her name to her career as a star-faring grave robber, looting the relics of ancient civilizations for her own enrichment. It’s a heartwarming tale of personal re-invention.

Or it was, until Skeen’s lover Tibo stole her starship and marooned Skeen on Kildun Aalda. Although the authorities do not know who Skeen really is, it’s only a matter of time before she ends up in prison or dead.

Happily, there is a third option.

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Baby on Board

Irsud — Jo Clayton
Diadem, book 3

1978’s Irsud is the third volume in Jo Clayton’s Diadem series.

Two volumes ago, Aleytys, the red-haired and occasionally clothed bearer of the diadem, a strange artifact imbued with the minds of previous bearers, managed to find a way off her backward homeworld. Alas, she is no closer to finding her mother’s world.

Volume two ended on a cliffhanger: Aleytys’ baby stolen and Aleytys herself sold to aliens. Aliens with an … um … parasitic wasp life cycle. I am afraid things will be getting worse for Aleytys before they get better.

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Cosmic Caper!

Lamarchos — Jo Clayton
Diadem, book 2

1978’s Lamarchos is the second installment in Jo Clayton’s Diadem series; my review of the first book is here. I plan to slowly work my way through the rest of the series (especially if people keep tossing money at me to do so); I’m hoping that I like the later installments more than I liked this one.

Our heroine, Aleytys, has several long-term goals: find her mother’s people, and find some way to master, if not remove, the alien artifact currently meshed to her nervous system. She also has a short-term goal: earn enough money to sustain herself and her baby. For the moment, the short-term goal (survival) takes precedence. That’s why Aleytys and her lover Stavver have made an uncomfortable alliance with the questionably sane criminal mastermind, Maissa.

They have been tasked to help out with what seems a straight-forward con job: bilk some low-tech rubes on backwater Lamarchos out of valuable gems. Aleytys’ psychic talents and Stavver’s criminal expertise should make that easy-peasy.

If only Lamarchos’ gods weren’t real. And very interested in what Aleytys can do for them …

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The War on Boredom!

Moonscatter — Jo Clayton
Duel of Sorcery, book 2

1983’s Moonscatter is the second volume of Jo Clayton’s Duel of Sorcery.

Immortal, powerful, the grandest of his kind, Ser Noris [1] faces a nearly insurmountable challenge: he’s bored. A thrilling conflict might be just the ticket … but the only possible rival worthy of a man of his power is She, the phoenix-like embodiment of the cycle of life. Victory for Ser Noris might mean the end of all life—but at least he won’t be bored.

But Ser Noris isn’t the protagonist of this adventure. His former acolyte/lever to change the world Serroi is. Cast aside when she did not suit Ser Noris, Serroi built a new life for herself, a life now threatened by her old master’s efforts to escape boredom.

Elsewhere, a young girl named Tuli provides a peasant’s-eye view of what living in a secondary fantasy world prone to world-saving quests looks like.

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A beautiful hypothesis slain by ugly fact

Diadem from the Stars — Jo Clayton
Diadem, book 1

In a previous review I said

despite being aware enough of her work to have picked up significant details of the Diadem series through cultural osmosis …

A bold assertion! And now that I have tracked down and read Jo Clayton’s 1977 debut novel, Diadem from the Stars , I can now assess how accurate that claim was.

The good news is that I definitely got the name of the series and the name of the author correct. Otherwise …

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Nor are jerks

Moongather — Jo Clayton
Duel of Sorcery, book 1

My terrible confession: until now, despite buying Jo Clayton’s novels with the intention of reading them at some point, despite being aware enough of her work to have picked up significant details of the Diadem series through cultural osmosis, I have a horrible feeling that this is the first Clayton I have actually read.

Jo Clayton (1939–1998) was, I believe, another one of Donald Wollheim’s discoveries. Her debut novel, 1977’s Diadem from the Stars, was the 235th book DAW published [1]. The Diadem universe books made up a large fraction of her output and are probably her best known works. That said, the Diadem books were not the whole of her thirty-five book bibliography. The book I have in hand, 1982’s Moongather, first in the Duel of Sorcery trilogy, is completely unrelated to the Diadem series. It is a fantasy rather than science fiction.

It begins with a shocking betrayal

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