A series if Fantasy
novels written by C.J. Cherryh
. The books are:
Actually, it's more a science fantasy
setting. The premise: a long time ago, there was a race called the qual
had built an intergalactic civilization, based on the "Gates", basically teleporters, which allowed them to travel instantaneously between stars. Humans were servants or slave
s to the qual, and spread with them. However, the gates also allowed travelling through time
. It was not allowed to travel backwards, but eventually someone did, which caused a disaster that destroyed the qual civilization, leaving individual worlds isolated from each other, often falling back to a medieval level of science and technology.
Hero of the story is Vanye, a young human living on such a world, where the qual are extinct, but their memory still feared and hated. Vanye is ilin, an outlaw, because he killed his half-brother in an argument (out of self defense, as he sees it). One day, he meets Morgaine, for him a figure of legends a hundred years past. She looks qual and uses technology that is magic to him. However, through a quirk of law, he ends up being oath-bound to serve her.
It turns out that Morgaine's aim is to destroy all gates to prevent a repetition of the disaster that destroyed the qual. Each novel has Vanye and Morgaine traveling through another world, avoiding or overcoming obstacles (often cause political chaos or outright war) to their aim, the destruction of the gate after they pass through it to the next world.
Slowly, ever so slowly, Vanye loses his fear of Morgaine and begins to understand, respect, and eventually love her, a feeling she returns even though she is terrified of becoming attached to anything or anyone she could lose or which could undermine her absolute dedication to her ultimate goal.
Morgaine is a highly complex character, willing to literally sacrifice anything to her goal, yet quite often agonizing over it and trying to maintain some sort of ethics. From the beginning on, she tells Vanye that he is expendable, yet the fact that she is no less callous towards herself than towards him soon makes him fiercely loyal towards her.
The stories, which represent some of Cherryh's earliest works, already show her immense writing talent, captivating the reader through the rich background and the complex characters. In fact, though I also like most of her other books very much, the Morgaine Cycle remains my favourite, and I am somewhat sad that a further sequel seems unlikely.