In The Garden of the Stone, Victoria Strauss expands upon the themes of technology, spirituality and human nature she took up in The Arm of the Stone. This story of parallel worlds divided by their choices to use either mindpower or handpower moves in unexpected and satisfying new directions. Strauss introduces intriguing new characters and details the sometimes painful enlightenment of familiar ones.
Bron, the man whom secret prophecy said would restore a balance between mindpower and handpower, vanished decades ago with the Stone -- a powerful talisman through which the unfathomable energy and wholeness of the world can be approached by people with the Gift. Yet though the Stone is gone, much on the surface of the world of mindpower remains the same. The changes in the world since the loss of the Stone have been insidious. The theocracy of the Fortress still rules, maintaining an elaborate charade to keep the awareness of the Stone's loss from the masses. But constructions built with Gifts are beginning to fail across the world, and not even the ultra-conservative Reddened faction of the Arm of the Stone can stop the apparent unbinding of mindpower.
Bron left behind a daughter: Cariad, a skilled assassin and rare heartsenser who works for the underground resistance movement sworn to bring down the Fortress. It has been foreseen that Cariad will be reunited with the father she's never known when he returns to the Garden of the Stone to restore balance to the world. Cariad, certain that she cannot be harmed until that prophecy is fulfilled, leads a reckless and lonely life. Her heartsensing gift prevents her from loving another person fully, for in so doing she would have to forever lower the barriers that keep the clamoring emotions of others from invading who she is. When an agent of the resistance who has infiltrated the Reddened within the fortress disappears, Cariad is sent in to discover what has happened. She goes into the mission carrying her own secret plans: to kill the man who stood against her father so many years ago, the man who would destroy Bron and take the power of the Stone for himself, the Reddened leader Jolyon. Cariad's selfish goals turn against her when she runs up against the source of Jolyon's bottomless well of power, and her vendetta threatens to destroy her, her father, and the movement she fights for.
The Garden of the Stone makes some interesting points about mankind's nature and destiny, avoiding the obvious position of cheerleading magic and boo-ing technology. Thoughtfully and with finesse, this novel holds a mirror free of enchantment up to humanity, posing hard questions and exposing weaknesses that we might yet, with no little difficulty, overcome. May Victoria Strauss bless her readers with a long and fruitful career.