The Morgaine Saga is science fiction-fantasy, and I do not really read a lot of fantasy, esp given that fantasy heroines tend to be decked out in chain mail bikinis or be token playthings. Morgaine, however, is neither. Course she is thought to be a witch, but that is because she is from a distant, technologically advanced world. The last surviving member of the task force sent out to close interplanetary Gates (portals/wormholes) which are undermining the fabric of the universe, Morgaine is stranded on a planet where feudal rules prevail. She proves quite capable of playing by these rules, even though the odds are much against her and her liegeman, Vanye.
The trilogy could just as well be titled The Vanye Saga, as it is told from Vanye's point of view and Vanye is a most interesting and sympathetic character. At first he is horrified that he has unwittingly entered into an unconditional allegiance to Morgaine, whom he views as a not-human who wields terrible magic. He is caught in a bind- break his oath to her, which would mean the damnation of his soul for all eternity, or keep his oath to her, which would likely mean the same thing. The situation is not unlike his entire life- such being the lot of a bastard son born of a powerful lord and a very unwilling, equally powerful lady of an enemy house. Cursed and cast out for killing his half brother in self-defense, Vanye choses to see his year commitment to Morgaine as a chance at atonement. Once the year is up, he is a free man with a clean slate- he can actually live a life free of the worst of his stigmas.
During the break-neck, miserable struggle for survival that Morgaine's mission becomes, however, Vanye becomes aware of the awful burden on her and of the secret she carries that could destroy his world and will most certainly destroy her. He realizes that she is oath-bound to something much larger than he has ever known, something beyond the pale of the medieval powers and alliances and forces that want desperately to have it for themselves. Something that another person from far away has come to gain, as well.
The trilogy's first book, Gate of Ivrel, is set in Vanye's world and time. Well of Shiuan follows up events, hundreds of years distant on a quite different world(and yet but a momentary hop for Morgaine and Vanye), which have carried over through the gate and become hopelessly entangled with local politics and a looming natural disaster. This most directly spills over into Fires of Azeroth as thousands flee through the gate into yet another world, seeking to take it and the unlimited, unreliable, and unstable powers of the gates for themselves.
The character development is nicely done if not brilliant, the action fast-paced, the plot believable, and the resolution satisfying. Early Cherryh, she's still learning, but quite enjoyable.
Nice three-in-one volume gives you the whole trilogy at once. A very interesting concept from a great author!
The Gates were relics of a lost era. The Union Science Bureau surmised that they had once linked whole networks of civilizations throughout the galaxy-an empire ruled by a ruthless race known as the qhal. This qhal empire spanned both Space and Time, for their Gates warped time, enabling qhal travelers to step from point to point across light years unaged. It was even possible to travel into the future. However intervention in backtime could affect entire worlds and civilizations, could change the course of galactic history, could destroy empires and possibly implode time itself...and this is what the Science Bureau believed happened...sometime, somewhere in the unreachable past, an arrogant power-drunk qhal had done the unthinkable, and warped the very fabric of space and time.
Morgaine pale in coloring and tall aas the tallest men, it seems clear that this mysterious traveler us a descendeant of the long vanished qhal. Aided by a single warrior honor-bound to serve her, it is her mission to travel from world to world sealing the ancient Gates whose very existence threatens the integrity of the universe. But will she have the power to follow her quest to its eventual conclusion -- the Ultimate Gate or the end of time itself?
Three books in one. GAte of Ivrel - Well of Shiuan - Fires of Azeroth
Morgaine was pale in coloring and as tall as the tallest men, it seems clear that this mysterious traveler is a descendant of the long vanished qhal.