This volume begins the second of the three trilogies that compose Sheri Tepper's epic tale of the Land of the True Game. This time we will see the tale through the eyes of Jinian of Stoneflight Demesne. Of course, we have met Jinian before. But know only what Peter discovered in the short period when he met Jinian and came to care for her. Now we come to find out that Jinian has great depths of her own. This is our introduction to her history and will bring us up-to-date, so that we are ready to join the young couple and their friends on a journey past the borders of the lands of the gamesmen.
Jinian, raised as an unwelcome child in a Talented family finds that her best and only friends are seven 'sisters' who undertake her care and education when her mother and brother give Jinian nothing but cause to fear. Murzy, Tess Tinder-my-hand, Margaret Foxmitten, Betts Battereye, Cat Candleshy, and Sarah Shadowsox. With Jinian, they make seven. From them the young girl learns the elements of Wyze-art, true magic in a world where most magic is really just the powers of the various talents that developed when humans fled to this world.
Jinian is caught in a game not of her own making, between Porvius Bloster, a Tragamoor lost in a dream, and her not so brotherly brother, Mendost the Armiger. Barely making her escape, Jinian comes to Chimmerdong forest, which will need her help when she is ready to give it. There she also meets the Flitchhawk, the Oracle, and countless others, both foe and friend. Jinian will come to attend Vorbold's House in Xammer, avoid yet another game played against her until finally she comes to take her place among the Wyze-ards. And finally, she will meet Peter for the second time and open a completely new chapter of adventures.
I hope I have managed to give the reader the impression of a complex story full of imaginative diversions. What I have yet to do is confess that Jinian is a truly marvelous character. She approaches her life with bright intensity and determination, and manages to maintain a certain whimsical philosophy. Whether she is casting spells or talking to bunwits, Jinian is an engaging narrator. In a genuinely tricksie world Jinian is a touchstone of common sense, outwitting her opponents and charming her friends.
If anything, I like this second series even better than Tepper's first. Peter has his own magic, but Tepper goes an extra mile in developing Jinian and the characters she meets. In this story both the game world and the real world meet head on, and I think the Armigers, Tragamoors, and Basilisks come out the worst for wear.