"This is a tale of love - and of the ancient war between men and women - that beguiles and charms like a true fable. It follows Shikasta, which Time magazine hailed as Dazzling. . . . At once a brief history of the world, a tract against human destructiveness, an ode to the natural beauties of this earth, and a hymn to the music of the spheres.
This second book brings us into the territory of legend, of myth. It is the story of the lovely and amiable Queen of the benign Zone Three and of her forced marriage to the soldier King of the martial and hierarchic Zone Four.
The military ruler - surprisingly - learns to accept and then to love the ruler of Zone Three and her unfamiliar and distrusted ways. The Queen, in turn, learns to love and need him. But even great rulers must know how to obey - they too live under the ordinance of the Providers who rule all things. And when the Queen is commanded to return to her own realm, where she is now a stranger and an exile, she must do so, though to leave her husband and her child seems to kill her heart. And the King, Ben Ata, doing as he is told, marries the savage beauty who rules Zone Five - an unexpected land that mirrors the manners and modes of the other two zones, uniting and reversing them.
Doris Lessing has written a great deal about the war between men and women, sometimes abrasively, But this tale is a distillation, a summing up - as fables and myths must be. There is a tender and humorous acceptance, all bitterness long spent. It is if every posture or cliché about male-female confrontation has been set in a brilliant, clean landscape where it appears heightened; dramatized, yet lightened. It is filled with Doris Lessing's profound knowledge of what happens - and what is possible - between men and women."