In many ways, the Lyonesse Trilogy consists of three threads which connect sometimes very tangentially. There is the competition between the various kingdoms, the conflict between the mages, and the quests into ‘fairyland’. Each of these stories is dispersed through the novels in varying doses.
In the final volume, it felt at times like Vance had left himself with too much to do. Every now and then, he hit the fast forward button and events whiz by almost in summary. At other times, tangential and inconsequential matters were lingered over. A great deal of writing was spent establishing characters only to rid them from the book in a sentence.
Maduoc eclipses to a greater or lesser extent the main characters from the previous novels. I felt Glyneth in particular got short shrift. Where, for instance, were these swords she brought back from Tanjecterly? The concentration on Maduoc compresses the ultimate conclusion of the struggle between Aillas and Casimir, making it feel a little rushed.
And yet, the novel makes up for these dashed expectations. Shimrod’s adventures in the previous novels, at times made disjointed and abrupt by the opaque central mystery now click into place. More importantly, Maduoc is an engaging character and her adventures kept my interest throughout. I was particularly moved by the ultimate fate of one of the minor characters. It was very well done.