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Thendara House by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Published by DAW Books
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
At the close of The Shattered Chain, Terran linguist Magdala Lorne, now oathbound as a Renunciate (a member of the order of free women commonly known as Free Amazons), and the Free Amazon Jaelle had agreed to trade places. Magda, known as Margali among Darkovans, will go to the Renunciates' Guildhouse in Thendara for a year of training. Jaelle, who has married Magda's ex-husband Peter Haldane, will go with him to Terran HQ and take Magda's place as cultural liaison officer for Darkovan relations.
However, things prove harder than either woman can anticipate. Culture shock is compounded for Magda by the necessity of keeping her true identity as a Terran secret. Thus even small mistakes of ignorance end up looking like deliberate affronts.
Meanwhile, Jaelle is finding the strain of keeping the Renunciate's Oath within the context of Terran cultural standards a nearly unbearable burden. Even something so small and routine as a standard pre-printed name badge is a problem, since the Terrans simply assume that she will take her husband's surname. This runs directly contrary to the Oath, which plainly states that a Renunciate shall be known by the name of no man, but only as the daughter of her mother. Her new supervisor tells her that it would be too difficult to change established procedure and she should go along to get along. She does, albeit with reservations.
Worse yet is the uniform she must wear, which offends her Darkovan sense of modesty. When she gets hassled by some ignorant Terrans, she soon learns that she is not permitted to respond to the affront with force. Instead she must call upon Security, which is too close to violating the part of the Oath about not calling upon men to defend her.
Things get even more interesting for Magda when a battered woman comes to the Guildhouse for refuge. Although the Guild mothers are willing to let Kietha stay without obligation until she has recovered from her most recent beating, Kietha insists that she wants to take the Oath immediately.
Her vengeful and possessive husband soon arrives to take his wife back by force of arms. With two hired swords at his side he demands that the Renunciates hand Kietha over immediately. When the Guild mother refuses, the fight begins and Magda is drafted into the defense of the Guildhouse.
The next thing Magda knows, she has slain a surrendered man, disgracing her sword and her sworn sisters. Her Oath is called into question and she faces expulsion from the Renunciates.
This novel continues the exploration of issues of loyalty that were raised in The Shattered Chain. Both Jaelle and Magda must look into themselves and work through what the Oath means to them.
Click to buy Thendara House in paperback.
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Review posted October 5, 2000
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