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A novel by Julie Czerneda
(2009, DAW Books)

Stratification, book 3

As the temptation to use the new Power becomes more and more irresistible, the Om’ray of Sona upset the balance of Cerci, until they trigger a move that nearly destroys the world as they know it.


+ -- First reading (ebook)
October 23rd to November 4th, 2020


There were several jarring switches in context in this book. My favorite parts were how Aryl and the others live and try to improve their lives. They are the first Om’ray to think about making life better for themselves. Unfortunately, the other two races are not sympathetic to that, wanting to stick to their agreement. Then they travel to Vyna, and to visit the Tikitik, where cryptic messages are exchanged. There are so many unanswered questions here. How do the tabs of the ancient Council work? What in fact is the M’hir, with its Watchers and the links between Om’ray? Where do the Cloisters come from? How many Adepts are left in the other clans? And so on. I assume (and hope) that these will be answered in a later series. Then we get to the last quarter of the book, where things take on a completely different aspect. I absolutely hate the idea of group amnesia, especially since it was never hinted at before, and it actually changes their personalities. But the world they end up in is very interesting, and I do like the way they take steps to protect themselves, though I have a feeling they’ve gone too far. I put most of my enjoyment in the first three quarters of the book, but I suppose the story would have stagnated if the author just showed the status quo. I’m up for a change, but found this one a little too jarring.

Spoiler review:

I had whiplash throughout the book. All the places that we’ve visited in the first two books, we got to revisit here. From Sona, which was the most satisfying, to Yena for discussions with Aryl’s mother, to the caves where Marcus found the remains of the old aliens they were searching for, to Vyna, where we discover that the rock monsters are baby Oud, to the Tikitik village (which is new to us), and then -big surprise- we head out into space, into the Trade Pact world, where the Sona change significantly.

The Tikitik describe the Agreement, but it’s not clear how this came to be, nor why it exists. Why are the Om’ray required, and why does it matter how many are in each clan? If there used to be so many more Om’ray, why do the Tikitik and Oud get to decide which clans disappear when more show up at Sona? It seems that the Oud have been skewing the Agreement their way and towards the attrition of the Om’ray for a long time.

I’d really like to know how the birth tabs work, and how they can transfer an old consciousness into a baby with no soul (I don’t recall how she got pregnant in the first place, not having been a Chooser). I’m not sure how I feel about the Vyna at all, except that I really hope they feature into the sequel series.

By far, the daily life of the Sona, and their struggles, achievements (like the dam and the cloisters), and the dealings with Marcus were my favorite parts. I love reading about this culture. Then Marcus is betrayed, and some of his associates try to kill him and steal the artifacts. Aryl is able to rescue him, but not before all the Sona Oud have been killed and in a panic, somehow all Om’ray who are able to teleport end up in the Sona cloisters. This, of course, alters the Om’ray count, putting the Agreement in danger.

So Aryl decides that they must leave Cerci. And this is where I think most people will get the hardest whiplash. As Marcus dies, he gives them images of safe havens, and they pick one where he felt the most peace, and Aryl decides on one. Her mother can’t make it because of her special relationship with the Mhir, as she survived when her Chosen died. But the others make it to this new world. And it’s a far cry from the primitive society they left behind. Yet they adapt very well. They discover that their ability to communicate telepathically, to teleport, and to influence certain humans with a telepathic inclination, allows them to integrate very well. They took the artefacts with them, so they trade and get enough money to become wealthy inhabitants.

Not having read the original trilogy, I don’t know anything about these worlds, which seem to praise pleasure above all else, nor do I know the mhir’ray relationship with it in later times. Aryl is funny as a fish out of water, but she’s also very driven to protect her people, so while she gets into trouble early on, it’s not hard for she and Enris to get out of it.

Speaking of Enris, I just love the way their love is portrayed. It’s entirely giving, and while there are small bumps, the telepathic way they are connected allows differences to be resolved much more easily than in our world.

I look forward to the next trilogy, though I find myself longing for the sequel trilogy, where it looks like we would return to Cerci, the Tikitik and Oud. In the meanwhile, I’ll read the rest of the series in order, and get to it in time. Thoroughly enjoyable!


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