Lisanne Norman,
Between Darkness & Light:
A Sholan Alliance Novel

(DAW, 2003)

This is the first book I have read by the wonderfully imaginative Lisanne Norman, and her seventh hefty novel in the intriguing series, The Sholan Alliance. Although the reader would benefit greatly from having read the preceding books, this is an enjoyable and fascinating read on its own. Help yourself out to some degree if you can, by visiting Lisanne's website for a more detailed brief on the myriad of species you will encounter in Between Darkness & Light.

The many alien beings come alive with her descriptions, and what a variety she has crafted! The Touibans are small and busily active, living in hives of a dozen, under the protection of the larger Suumans. The Camarilla, one of the oldest entities in the galaxy, consist of three different sub-species, including the fragile insectoid Telaxaudins, whose technological tinkering with evolution leads to the creation of the U'Churians, and the astonishing psychically gifted Cabbarans, who rank among world-transformers. Then there are the Chemerians, the peaceful Cha'lmuthians and the aggressive M'zullians. Finally, of course, there are the reptilian Valtegan Primes, the feline Sholans and an odd assortment of humans.

The story is complex and labyrinthine, but at its most simple breakdown, it centers around Shaidan, the telepathic hybrid offspring of Sholan Capt. Kusac Aldatan and a female Valtegan. He was spawned when Kusac was held captive by the Prime directorate, tortured and deprived of his own telepathic abilities.

During his imprisonment, Kusac was also scent-marked by the directorate with the dangerous and awkward result that he is unable to resist the imposed attraction to Dr. Zayshul (Kezule's wife) despite being of another species. He is also exudes attraction for the other Prime females, with the additional handicap that if mating is not completed, he becomes ill. On top of all these problems, Kusac, now living on Shola with his human, genetically mutated mate Carrie and his sword-brother Sholan Kaid, is sent on a secret mission to retrieve the hybrids. If the hybrids existence were made public, the implications could shatter the alliance. Despite the closeness of the sexually interactive, mind-linked, "Leska Triad," which Kusac, Kaid and Carrie form, the other two are unaware of his delicate mission, and perforce must believe Kusac to be a traitor, unstable following his torture.

Unknown to anyone, Kusac has regained his telepathic powers, after restoration and enhancement by the Telauxaudians, but he himself is ignorant of his true potential. Shaidan has been rescued from the directorate along with five other hybrids by Kusac's arch enemy, Valtegan General Kezule, who is keeping Shaidan on an asteroid where he is trying to fulfil his own destiny, that of building a caste-free species.

Between Darkness & Light is brim-full with intrigue, mystery, manipulation, politics and sex; as if this were not sufficient guarantee of its success Norman throws into this bubbling melting pot shades of Greek mythology, meddling deities, Merlin, reincarnation and a good dash of mind control! The interaction between all the characters, species and situations made my head spin, but the book was glued to my hand until I turned the final 752nd page. Roll on the sequel!

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 2 August 2003

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