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The Shadow Matrix


First publication:
Daw in 1997

Reference edition (in this Web site)
Daw Books, ISBN 0-88677-743-7

Foreign editions:
  • in french: "La matrice fantôme" (the ghost matrix) published by Pocket in 1998


Darkover time Back Next
Exile's Song Traitor's Sun
Publication time Back Next
Exile's Song Traitor's Sun

This novel is the twentieth in the Darkover time. It is the twentieth in the publication time.


This Novel was written with Adrienne Martine-Barnes.

Reading guide

Darkover history period:
Against the Terrans-The Second Age (After the Comyn)
What to read before and after:
This novel is the direct sequel to Exile's Song which should really be read before in order something. Moreover, it is a prequel to Traitor's Sun, but you don't have to reread it before.
Much better than Exile's Song...

"Official" presentation (from Daw Books)

In Exile's Song, the long-awaited sequel to The Heritage of Hastur and Sharra's Exile, Margaret Alton, daughter of Lew Alton, returned to Darkover after a youth spent on the Terran Empire. But the planet of her birth seemed a bizarre and terrifying place, and Margaret was haunted by the image of a Tower of mirrors, and a commanding voice in her head-a voice which filled her with fear. When she began to hear fragments of speech, words which had never been voiced Margaret learned that she had the Alton Gift-forced rapport and compulsion-one of the strongest and most dangerous of the inherited laran gifts of the telepathic Comyn-the ruling families of Darkover. Yet she had also been overshadowed-her telepathic channels tampered with-and she had to find a way to break free from the influence of this unknown foe or she would become a menace to herself and everyone around her.

But she did not escape unharmed from this encounter, for etched into her left hand was a shadow matrix-a rare, dangerous, and little-understood tool of power.

In The Shadow Matrix, Margaret has been making a desperate effort to control her new-found powers, but even the learned Tower workers cannot understand the obscure, potent, and frightening nature of her unusual matrix.

However Margaret's problems are not limited to the mystical powers of the mind, for as the rightful heir of the Alton Domain, she has become the nexus of a political battle which threatens to disrupt Comyn Council-the governing body of Darkover. To make matters worse, she has fallen in love with Mikhail Lanart-Hastur, Regent to the royal Elhalyn Domain, a man she has been forbidden to marry, for their alliance would irrevocably alter the power balance of their planet.

But then Margaret and Mikhail find themselves drawn inexorably to the ruins of an ancient Tower-a Tower destroyed centuries ago, and they are sent back through time, to an era where every choice they make will impact on the world of their own present. This landscape of terror eclipses all their current strife. For a long dead Keeper, one of the most powerful beings ever born on Darkover, waits for them in the Ages of Chaos. And in the quest set for them by this ancient shade they will face foes and challenges beyond their wildest imaginings in a battle which may not only change the entire face of their world, but could alter the future so that they no longer exist!

My personal opinion

Fortunately, Shadow Matrix is much better than its prequel Exile's Song. As traditionnal Darkover novels, Shadow Matrix focuses on few characters: Margarida Alton and Mikhail Hastur. It contains two parts: the first one tells Margarida and Mikhail personnal quests. They both have to face alone their destiny. The second part tells Margarida and Mikhail joined quest in the Ages of Chaos.

The first part is quite good, especially Mikhail's adventure, which is rather tensed and well written. Margarida's part acts here as the background and give to the whole first part more thickness: I think Mikhail's thoughts are well analyzed, especially his mixed feelings about his lover.

The second part is also very good and involves Margarida and Mikhail's time trip to Ages of Chaos. I won't go into details to avoid revealing too much. This part is sometimes close to a dream which gives it another quality.

I see two negative points. First, the novel is not exactly original. It is a traditionnal Darkover novel, and therefore looks a little bit a commercial product. Second, it is obvious that there is no relation between the first and the second part. This is not really a problem for me, but other readers might be disappointed to find that the five hundred pages novel consists in fact in two two hundred and fifty pages short novels!

More about the novel

  • a summary of the novel (this summary contains the complete story !)
  • a list of involved characters

copyright 96-99 Fabrice Rossi (

source file (Last modification: Wed Apr 21 17:21:45 1999)