At the time Marion was working on The Shadow King, she also did some preliminary sketches for a companion novel, The Reluctant King, which took place roughly at the same time as The World Wreckers. There is some suggestion that she intended it to be a rewrite, as Sharra’s Exile had taken the place of The Sword of Aldones.Marion’s rough manuscript made its way into the hands of her editor, Betsy Wollheim. When Betsy and I were in editorial session around 2004, she brought out the pages and handed me a copy. At the time, I had just begun work on The Alton Gift, so I set it aside for the moment. When that project was finished and after considerable deliberation, I decided to tackle finishing The Shadow King, rather than immediately continuing the “modern” Darkover timeline.
I read through Marion’s pages with a mixture of wonder and deep concern. She had been very ill when she wrote them, and a series of strokes had seriously impaired her ability to develop and sustain a story over the usual novel length. This manuscript was only 176 pages long. Between the difficult, wandering passages, the false starts and repetitions, shone the true gold of her story-telling genius. My job was to sort it out and then spin it into a complete novel.
Early on, I made the decision to incorporate what I could from The Reluctant King, rather than attempt to turn that partial manuscript into a separate novel. Marion had the right to revise The World Wreckers, as she had The Bloody Sun and The Sword of Aldones, but I felt it would be presumptuous for anyone else.
I outlined The Shadow King, notating everything felt central to what Marion was trying to do, then pruned the rest. This gave me a skeleton, an “armature” in which to develop the plotlines, characters and themes begun by Marion. One of the characters I added was Kierestelli, the daughter of Regis and Linnea, conceived at the end of The World Wreckers. She had presented herself to me in The Alton Gift as the reclusive Keeper of Nevarsin Tower. I knew that Silvana was not her real name, that she was the daughter of Regis Hastur and possessed the Hastur Gift, but not why she was almost pathologically secretive. The events Marion had sketched out — most especially, a villain holding those Regis loved as hostages to gain power — offered the perfect sequence to explore how she became that way. (Since Kierestelli/Silvana is going to be a major character in the next “modern” Darkover novel, it was imperative that I understand her more deeply.)
After conferring with Marion’s Literary Trustee, I decided to change the title. There was already considerable confusion about the similarities of the titles The Shadow King and The Reluctant King, and L. Sprague de Camp had published a series of novels called The Reluctant King. I wanted something specifically Darkovan, something that might convey the central issues of hereditary power, responsibility, and identity–Hastur Lord.