The third book in the Dancer series, published 1983.
THE SHIP’S COMPUTER HAS CHOSEN—and now Rheba the fire dancer and her Bre’n mentor Kirtn must fulfil the next part of their ongoing mission—to return a shipload of fellow ex-slaves to their widely scattered home planets. Their current destination: Yhelle, a world where reality is far too fleeting for anyone but a master illusionist to grasp. Yhelle is considered the most civilized place in the galaxy and their brief stopover should be pure pleasure. But it doesn’t take Rheba, Kirtn, and their two Yhelle crewmates long to discover that beneath the paradise-like surface of this society lurks an evil that is growing more powerful each day, a seductive darkness that feeds on love and kills with ecstasy....
Some of their new shipmates have been delivered home safe already, and know it is the turn for their illusionist friends, F’Ltiri and I’Snara. They have no idea what to expect back home though, as they did not leave voluntarily. They tried to steal the Ecstasy Stones and failed. They were sold to the Loo slavers, never expecting to come back home. But they have children, and they need to know what has happened to them. If they are still safe and happy, or perhaps they can take them with them.
Again Rheba and Kirtn demand to go with them to find out. But for two aliens in Yhelle, it is very difficult. A planet made of illusions, with no way to tell what is real, and what is not. That is extremely tiring as everything is constantly changing. But the world F’Ltiri and I’Snara knew is no longer. Their clan is destroyed, their children are missing, and a Tyrant has taken over the city. Luring everyone to worship the Ecstasy Stones, and keeping them.
An adventure even stranger than the previous ones await Rheba and Kirtn on Yhelle. Without their guides, they have no clue what is happening. They are lucky to have Fssa, the strange creature who can translate almost all the languages it hears. It doesn’t really see like other people, it uses energy, which is useful to a certain degree in telling what is real and what is an illusion. Of course, Fssa is lucky to have found Rheba, as her energy and her fire keep him warmer than he has been since he can remember. He is never happier than when she dances, he could swim happily in a lava pool. His ability to absorb her fire and her energy has safed Rheba and Kirtn once before.
Ann Maxwell, who of course is one of my favourite authors, more known as Elizabeth Lowell has a very compelling writing style. It is fluent, fast paced, and reads easy. I have no trouble at all with al the strange names and words and worlds. It is fascinating. I have come to know the main and most important secondary characters, and really want to read more. But after almost 30 years since this book was published, I don’t think she will ever revisit this world and end the tale. It would be nice though, to find out how Rheba and Kirtn will find their way together, and if Fssa’s homeworld will ever be found.
Warning This is a three book series, and it will never be finished. After book three, there is no closure, you really do expect more books. Both for the storyline, and for the personal relationship. Still, I really enjoyed reading them.