Science Fiction
by Author
H-Q

 

qunatummurder.jpg (3091 bytes) A Quantum Murder by Peter F. Hamilton ****
Synopsis:
A sequel to "Mindstar Rising".  Greg Mandel, a freelance operative whose telepathic abilities give him a crucial edge in the high-tech world of the 21st century. Mandel must investigate the murder of professor Edward Kitchener, a double Nobel laureate who had been researching quantum cosmology for the powerful Event Horizon conglomerate.

A murder mystery set in the not too distant future.  I've been reading the entire series in reverse order and it hasn't really impacted the qualities of the tales.  There's something about the character of Greg Mandel that appeals to me.  Sort of a Harrison Ford character in print.   Honest, honorable, with a sense of humor and compassion.  The actual plot probably isn't the strongest but it shows of all his characters to best advantage.

mindstar.jpg (2602 bytes) Mindstar Rising by Peter F. Hamilton ****
Synopsis:
A veteran of Gulf War II, telepath Greg Mandel enters the high-tech world of computer crime, zero-gravity smuggling, and artificial intelligence when an elusive saboteur threatens a powerful organization and the very future of humankind

Mindstar rising is the first novel in the Greg Mandel trilogy and concentrates for the most part on the rather painful transition back from a totalitarian society into something that looks more like England as we know it today.  The book has some superficial touches of cyberpunk (brain implants and mean streets) but Hamilton is a powerful storyteller and the characters remain unique and engaging.

nanoflwr.jpg (2900 bytes) The Nano Flower by Peter Hamilton ****
Synopsis:
At first no one noticed when the flower was delivered to Julia Evans, owner of Event Horizon, but this flower has genes millions of years in advance of terrestrial DNA. Where did the plant come from? Greg Mandel, telepathic investigator, must find out--before the Nano flower blooms

Classic science fiction with aliens, a post apocalypse future and cyber implants in the brain. It's a great airport book.  It's almost 600 pages long and while every word isn't riveting it held my interest. 

 

Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison ****
Synopsis:
I picked this up in a mall book store when I was desperate for something to read.  The sales clerk recommended it very strongly and he was right. 

 

The good, the Bad and the undead by Kim Harrison **+
Synopsis:

I loved Dead Witch Walking but have had to struggle a little with each additional book.  This was a decent airplane read but not up to the potential she showed with her first book

 

 Dhampir by Barb and JC Hendee ***
Synopsis:

I attended a sci-fi panel that JC Hendee was sitting on and I decided to pick up his book.  I liked the unique character they created in Magiere.  Leesil her elven companion is not as clearly delineated in the first novel as I would have liked – a few minor characters come across as stronger and more interesting but that aside the book works

 

 Thief of Lives by Barb and JC Hendee **1/2
Synopsis:

Not quite as compelling as the first book.  The books are a little on the short side and I end up feeling that I’m getting more of a snap shot of the action than the full story.  Found myself skimming the book because nothing compelled me to read it more thoroughly.  I kept it in the bookcase for over a year figuring I’d read it again but I finally gave up

 

assassines.jpg (3979 bytes) Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb ***
Synopsis :As Fitz, an outcast and the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, grows to manhood, a legacy of magical skill and other mysterious talents propels him into the role of protector of the kingdom, if his initial perilous mission does not destroy him first.   This may not be the indispensable fantasy debut of the year, but it will find readers if offered to them

For a first novel this was very good.   Ms Hobb seemed to have found her voice (a real problem with first books is being too reminiscent of what ever influenced them) and the characters and plot were just quirky enough to keep it from being just one more boy in a castle story.  I especially enjoyed her creation of the wit as being an empathetic link with animals

royal assassin.jpg (2874 bytes) Royal Assassin by Robin Hobbs **1/2
Synopsis   After barely surviving his first mission, young Fitz returns to the chaotic royal court to find King Shrewd on his deathbed, his only ally off on a deadly quest, and the throne up for grabs, but when the Red Ship Raiders obliterate the Six Duchies, the kingdom's fortunes and Fitz's fate are at stake.

I love long books but if Ms Hobb had cut 100 maybe 150 pages this book would have gotten a three rating.  The problem was it was rattling on in some areas I simply got bored enough to skip large junks.  Again her book is original enough to be interested, the Red Raiders are appropriately horrific villains, it's just that it went on too long and seemed to be a little more down beat then I thought was necessary.

assquest.jpg (3824 bytes) The Farseer : Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb **
The red ship raids that dominated the first two books are practically forgotten in this book. Instead the plot focuses on the machinations of Regal.  He is the traitorous half brother of the King Verity, and he'll lie, cheat and steal to gain the throne.   There are also stone dragons and too much time spent walking.

What a disappointment. Quoting one of the reviewers at amazon.com " What started out as an enjoyable fantasy novel in the first book degenerated into plodding, dull and convoluted book inn the third novel. The author side tracks the story for no purpose and at points she only seems to be able to get the story moving by having the characters betrayed (by the second or third time I was saying "not again" to the novel" I'm reminded of my reaction to the first three Dune novels.   The first is of course on my list of the top 10 science fiction novels ever written.  The second was a book I thought he'd rushed to press to meet a deadline and not worthy of standing on it's own and the third (Children of Dune) simply had an error.. he wrote the wrong story because he must have stopped taking his antidepressant medication.   Ms Hobb clearly has been bitten by the same bug.  At the end of the novel I was left wondering what I was doing reading such a depressing book about a character who wasn't worthy of being called a hero.

ship of magic.jpg (3131 bytes) Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb   *****
Synopsis: Bingtown is a hub of exotic trade and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships--rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness. The fortunes of one of Bingtown's oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship Vivacia.  But the fate of the Vestrit family--and the ship--may ultimately lie in the hands of an outsider. The ruthless pirate Kennit seeks a way to capture his own liveship and bend it to his will....

I really enjoyed this book.  The characters were unique while at the same time being more realistic than any I remember encountering in a novel in a long time.  Kennit is a bad man who through happenstance and  magic ( he had a charm bound to his wrist that wears his face and speaks with his voice) ends up doing good and creating an aura around himself that hides his innate evil.  The interesting thing is that none of his actions are done with the intent of deception.  He's quite comfortable being bad but isn't enough of a fool to disabuse people of their notions. 

Shaman's Crossing – by Robin Hobb

 

RK and I both bought this as our Solstice gifts for each other this year.  What a strange book.  Powerfully written but not classic fantasy.  As of this moment I found that I read about half of it and then but it down never to pick it back up.  Of course I did that 5 times with the doomsday book so the jury is still out.

 


 

replicant knight.jpg (2697 bytes) Blade Runner: Replicant Night by K.W. Jeter - ** 1/2
Synopsis: Rick Deckard had left his career as a blade runner and the gritty, neon-lit labyrinth of L.A. behind, going to the emigrant colony of Mars to live incognito with Sarah Tyrell. Thanks to a talking briefcase  Deckard learns he's the key to a replicant revolution back on Earth. Once again Deckard is on the run from a sinister force determined to destroy him--and already closing in. This is Jeter's second book based on the movie the Blade Runner.


Workman like. Interesting plot idea but it never rises above words on a page, because nothing is ever developed fully enough to make you care.  I'm sure there is a book three in the works which might flesh out the plot a little more but I'm not sure I care.

 

path of daggers.jpg (3363 bytes) Path of Daggers by Robert Jordon ***
Synopsis:

Rand is still on the brink of losing it,  Egwene is leading an army toward Tar Valon. Nynaeve and Elayne keep on wandering toward the Lion Throne, again on the run from the Seanchan. Mat Cauthon is barely mentioned, and fellow ta'veren Perrin keeps busy with politics in Ghealdan.

A true bit of a slog.  I've had the book for almost two years and just got through it now.  It's not that it's written badly, on a scene by scene basis it's all fine but it's that 604 pages later very little has been accomplished.  If I was brutally honest he probably could have skipped the whole book and put the few relevant pieces either in the last book or the next book.   BUT unlike my comments on Terry Goodkind's obnoxiously bad 5th book, Jordon can write.  His characters stay true and no matter how plodding it becomes we're still on the road to the final confrontation

 

crownofswords.jpg (2384 bytes) A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordon ***
Synopsis:
The seventh volume in the Wheel of Time fantasy saga continues the quest to restore natural weather conditions to the world and end the terrible heat wave.  The novel continues to follow the lives and times of the 6 main characters.  Egwene is practicing at being the Amyrlin, Elaine and Nynaeve are searching for the bowl of the winds with Mat close on their heels, Perrin is trailing after Rand, and Rand is busily taking over the known world

You can't start this series in the middle.  If none of the above make sense go back to the Eye of the World and I'll see you about 5224 pages from now (yes I added them up).   Are they worth reading?  Absolutely, though I'd strongly recommend pacing yourself to one every 4 to 6 months.  Two back to back may be ok but I guarantee your brain will fog if you try to read three.  Terry Goodkind's early books (A wizard's first rule and the stone of tears) are nothing more than plagiarized Jordon but they're faster paced so you'll see a lot of reviewers recommending Goodkind over Jordon.  My recommendation would be to read the Jordon series and get the Goodkind series on tape (they come unabridged and they don't cost a kings ransom).  Dick Hill narrates 3 or the first four volumes so they're bound to be good.  Buck Schirner narrates Blood of the fold and I hated him on the Soul of Fire but in fairness the book was so bad I'm not sure anyone could have done any better

 

oathsmiraclestn.jpg (3020 bytes) Oaths and Miracles by Nancy Kress *** 1/2
Synopsis:
Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Kress uses her storytelling skills to tell a
story about science--and murder. FBI agent Robert Cavanaugh thinks he's on to something when the lover of a dead New York Mafioso is murdered in Las Vegas. The trail leads to Verico, a biotech company doing research with recombinant DNA, and to a horrifying conclusion.

This was a good read, which restores my faith in Nancy Kress.  Beggars in Spain is top notch but Beggars and Choosers and Beggars Ride are simply not up to par.  Oaths and Miracles is some what funky and Robert Cavanaugh is certainly not your run of the mill FBI agent unless you believe in the Fox Maulder school of agents, (he sends stream of consciousness doodles to his ex-wife).   Judy Kozinski on the other hand is sometimes pathetically real, as a woman who lost herself in a domineering and controlling husband and didn't even realize she was gone until he was murdered and she had to face life again on her own.  The book is really a mystery rather than science fiction, not that that affected my reading pleasure.  A definite recommend.  

 

beggarsinspain.jpg (2730 bytes) Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress *****
Synopsis:  What if people no longer needed to sleep? Leisha Camden belongs to a new generation of genetically enhanced children: she's tall, slim, intelligent, beautiful--and she doesn't sleep. A classic "if this goes on" work.  The original short story won a nebula award

This book is a new edition to my top 10 science fiction books ever written.  I can't believe I missed it the first time around.  There's so much here I barely know where to start.  Great science fiction is always based on taking humans and extrapolating our nature against changing circumstances. 

 

beggarsride.jpg (2546 bytes) Beggars Ride by Nancy Kress **
Synopsis : The final installment of the Beggar's Trilogy chronicles the decline of the genetically altered Sleepless, a new breed of super intelligent humans, and the radical effect they have had on civilization in the twenty-first century
beggars&chooser.jpg (2862 bytes) Beggars and Choosers by Nancy Kress ***
Synopsis
A futuristic U.S.A. has been radically altered by scientific advances.
Racked by the horrors of irresponsible gene research--threatened by technology gone
wild--the world is on the verge of collapse. Can it be saved? And for whom?

I wish the other two books held up to the standard the first book set but unfortunately the go from mediocre to don't waste your time.

 

maximunlight.jpg (2728 bytes) Maximum Light by Nancy Kress ** 1/2
Synopsis: Humanity's ability to conceive children has been severely reduced by pollution and disease. Kids are scarce but adoption is almost impossible. Three people are entangled in a life-threatening web. A teenaged girl sees something shocking and illegal, but is disciplined and told she is a liar. She joins forces with a doctor and a gay dancer to discover the truth

Almost but not quite.  Nancy Kress is a writer with talent and vision but I'm beginning to believe that her forte is the novella or short story and not the novel. If you subscribe to the premise that a novelist is a failed short story writer and the short story writer is a failed poet, then this comment (at least from me - since in my own writing I'm hopeless a novelist) would be as much a compliment as a condemnation.  The book simply didn't hold my interest for the length of the story.  I found her characters hard to warm up too and her premise that women denied children of their own would chose to substitute a monkey with a human face and  human hands as a child.  Read Beggars in Spain or Oath and Miracles instead.

 

darkwater.jpg (2279 bytes) Dark Water's Embrace by Stephen Leigh ***
Synopsis:
Struggling with rising infertility and infant mortality, repopulation is essential for a group of humans on a distant planet. Anais, a brilliant female doctor must find the link between the mysteries of the planet's past and the plight of the humans in order for her society to survive.

This is another of the $3.99 books from Avon.  I bought it largely to support the notion that there's a market for cheaper paperbacks. Other than that it's a solid airport read.  Most of the book left me with a "been there-done that" sort of feeling.  Left Hand of Darkness is better (at least in my memory) and the spontaneous evolution that the planet supposedly engenders simply didn't work for me. 

 

156100734x_m.gif (7210 bytes) Dragonseye by Anne McCaffrey Published by Brilliance Audio **
Filling in the cracks of Pern's history, McCaffrey narrates the events before the second Threadfall. There is little suspense and no deep conflict; this is an anecdotally pleasant story, straightforwardly told, of likable characters responsibly doing their duties. It will please McCaffrey's many devotees, but others will stumble over the odd mixture of medieval "proper Bloodlines" and miraculous personal computers functioning for 200 years.

Probably one of her weakest books.   Parts of the story take life and parts are so stilted that I wanted to scream.   Probably mandatory if you want all of the history of Pern otherwise not strong enough to bother with.  If you need to add the book to your Pern collection buy it in paperback but skip the tape. Dick Hill is the narrator on this book but even he can't salvage the weakness in the story.

dragonseye.gif (14099 bytes) The Master Harper of Pern by Anne McCaffrey Published by Brilliance Audio ***
Synopsis
:  McCaffrey's latest rummage through the archives of planet Pern (Dragonseye, 1997, etc.) has unearthed Robinton, the Masterharper of Pern, and the circumstances surrounding the advent
of weyrleader F'lar and Lessa, the first woman Dragonrider. It's a time when no Thread has
fallen for centuries (it's due in 50 years or so), and five of the six weyrs stand inexplicably
empty of Dragons and Riders.

Much better than Dragonseye.  Only problem is some of it is well traveled ground and some of it doesn't tie to earlier novels but that's nit-picking.  I enjoyed it.  Again the narrator is Dick Hill and he does his usual superb job.

 

acorna's quest.jpg (11542 bytes) Acorna's Quest by Anne McCaffrey, Margaret Ball **
Synopsis:
Acorna the "unicorn girl" has come of age and is ready to cross deep space to find her own people. But when she finally meets them, she gets a terrible warning. The Khlevii, the predatory alien warriors who destroyed Acorna's parents, are now planning to invade and conquer the human-held worlds. Only Acorna herself holds the key to humanity's salvation.

Silly me, I somehow hoped for better but I couldn't even make my way through this one.  I was so bored I was fighting in my plane seat.  I think some of the reason this was so unreadable to me was that I'd just finished Pigs Don't Fly and the mediocre drivel of Acorna's Quest makes a terrible second course after the tangy delight of Mary Brown's creation.

 

acorna.jpg (11993 bytes) Acorna : The Unicorn Girl by Anne McCaffrey, Margaret Ball **1/2
Synopsis:
When her parents' spaceship is attacked, Acorna's parents set her adrift in a lifepod to be found by three asteroid miners who become her uncles. But Acorna's special talents bring them unwanted attention, pulling her and her uncles into a series of dangerous and exciting adventures throughout known space.

This epitomizes the three star airport read.  It wasn't great but I could at least plough through the fairly mediocre story.   So she's "a unicorn girl" and has a magic horn, matures quickly, is bright, and can purify water and heal people. That alone doesn't make her an interesting character.  There are no plot twists in the book or surprises or even much true imagination.  Unless you're desperate skip the book it isn't really worth reading.

 

murderinsolid.jpg (2273 bytes) Murder in the Solid State by Wil McCarthy ** 1/2
Synopsis: At the dawn of the 21st century, the "molecular fabrication" industry is poised to remake the world in its image.  But life on the cutting edge can be dangerous; against a backdrop of scientific breakthrough and political oppression, graduate researcher David Sanger is implicated in the death of a colleague, and quickly finds himself caught up in the machinations of those who would shape the future to their own ends.

The first part of the book is alright and  Bowser is a rather appealing character.  Unfortunately after Bowser leaves the stage the book simply plods along.  If you want a cyberspace novel read Trouble and her Friends by Melissa Scott, it's a much better book

 

exilewaiting.jpg (2818 bytes) The Exile Waiting by Vonda N. McIntyre ***
Synopsis: A young man ends up aboard a starship escorting a friend home to die.  The planet they eventually land on is a bleak world where the post holocaust weather has forced most of the inhabitants underground.  He meets and befriends a telepathic thief who is desperate to leave her shattered world.

This only got three stars on my reread primarily because I think my tastes have changed.  In the past I probably would have listed this as small but elegant, in the tradition of Roger Zelasney's A Rose for Ecclesiastes.  I felt I was truly in McIntyre's world.  In her mind hearing the characters as they spoke to her but what I didn't get was some of the richness of tone that I'm sure she sees in her inner world.  (note: this is available from Barnes and Nobel in hardback - try the library first)

 

sistertorain.jpg (3429 bytes) Sister to the Rain by Melisa Michaels ****
Synopsis:
the second book in the Lavine fantasy mysteries, is a astounding
who-done-it that makes supernatural creatures seem absolutely real. The story line is fun, but the characters steal the show. From the acerbically sarcastic Rosie to the prejudicial Finandiel, readers feel like elves are genuine and living in California.

This is an utterly delightful book. Innovative plot and characters.  Exactly what my 4 star rating is reserved for.

towersofsunset.gif (5941 bytes) The Towers of  the Sunset by L.E. Modesett . ***
Synopsis:
  A ``prequel'' to The Magic of Recluse (1991), this sometimes engaging, more often frustrating novel details the founding of the island-kingdom of Recluse. Young Creslin, kept ignorant of his powers in both magic and sword craft, grows unsatisfied with his lot as a male in matriarchal Westwind. Unwillingly betrothed to the ``sub-Tyrant'' of a neighboring nation, Creslin flees eastward,

Started this on the way home from Toronto and finished on the way down to Dallas..  I HATE present tense.  The book wasn't bad but the choice of tense I find distances me from the characters and I was delighted to see that other reviewers had the same problem.  There are flashes of real writing and a real story here struggling to escape.  I gave it a 3 rating rather than a 2 1/2   but it was nip and tuck.

 

recluse.gif (6740 bytes) The Magic of Recluse by L.E. Modesitt
Synopsis:
Thrown off the Island of Recluse for failing to fit in, Lerris stumbles through life on the mainland.  One thing leads to another and slowly but surely he finds that he's a wizard.  But...  there are different kinds of wizards, white (chaos) wizards, black wizards (order) and something called a gray wizard. Lerris quickly realizes he isn't a chaos wizard but what is he really and where does he belong???

 

SS.jpg (2322 bytes) LE Modessit's Soprano Sorceress
Synopsis:
Blond, middle-aged soprano Anna Marshall finds herself whirled away from everyday Ames, Iowa, to another world in which the country of Defalk is threatened with invasion by evil Dark Monks from neighboring Ebra. In this world, however, music is magic, and, instructed by the sorcerer Brill and his sponsor, Lord Barjim, Anna discovers that she has enormous powers--if she can learn to harness them.

Modessit is a workman like craftsman.   His stories never enter the realm that the master's of science fiction can create but in a world increasing dominated by mediocre writing he's a pleasure to read.  The Soprano Sorceress is somewhat hackneyed but I enjoyed it none the less and am anxiously awaiting the sequel when it comes in paperback

spellsongwar.jpg (3052 bytes) Spellsong War by L.E. Modesitt ***
Synopsis:
Anna Marshal, who has been pulled by a sorcerer from her boring life as a music instructor in Ames, Iowa, to the world of Erde, is now regent for the kingdom of Defalk. Now she must defend Defalk against the greedy rulers of neighboring kingdoms who see it as a weakened state

The problem with this book aside for the usual Modesitt criticism of the annoyance of his proclivity for second person, present tense, redundant phrasing and general lack of subtly; is that it is nothing but a war story.  One of the strengths of his first book in this series was that his characters were unique and behaved in non stereotypical manners.  In this book its just battle after battle and the book just plods along.  Still I read the book from cover to cover and will buy the third in the series.  If I read fewer books I would probably have purged Modesitt from my list but given my voracious appetite for reading material I can always count on his books being a solid three and sometimes (like the Spellsong Sorceress) even better

 The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
Synopsis:

This isn’t really a science fiction book.  It is a look into the daily life of someone who has autism.  A friend loaned me the book and I was prepared to just skim it to avoid giving offense.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  It is a compelling and believable

 

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan *** 1/2
Synopsis: A futuristic murder mystery, where the hero is a former special forces/ex- U.N. envoy who wakes up one day to find himself out of prison and wearing the body of a San Francisco policeman. 

I was given this book at a sci-fi convention or I would never have read it.  As it was it sat on the shelf for almost a year and a half before I picked it up again and read it on the recommendation of a friend.  I do not buy trade paperbacks for pleasure reading.  They don't fit in the bookcase and I absolutely do not want to do anything that might encourage the publishing industry to adopt this as a more standard format.  With that said, once I got through the first few pages I enjoyed the book quite a bit.  Well written, interesting character with a great back story and complex secondary characters that add significant richness.  Almost a 4. 

 

leopardlord.jpg (12388 bytes) Leopard Lord by Alanna Morland ***1/2
Synopsis:
Varian is many things: a Lord Baron who cares deeply for his people; a shape-shifter who can take on the form of an ice leopard -- and an unwilling minion of the God of Evil. When he bargains for his freedom from his Master, he does not expect the price to be the bride he does not yet have.

I bought this as another emergency airport read.  At 272 pages it would only get me through half a flight but I have a thing about snow leopards so, hey what can I say?  That it was a very good first novel?  That it wasn't the cheesy fantasy romance novel I was afraid it was and actually had some characters and a plot?  My advice for her next novel would be to trust her vision and dig a little deeper into the complexities of human beings, she's got the right instincts she just needs to let go.  I'd also advice her to publish under her own name.  Alanna Morland must be a pseudonym and it sounded so much the cliché I almost didn't buy the book ('cept it had a snow leopard on the cover)

turningpoint.jpg (2890 bytes) Turning Point by Lisanne Norman ***
Synopsis: Here is the memorable tale of a human colony world cut off from Earth by alien
conquerors. It is the story, too, of a young woman gifted with mind powers who forms a telepathic bond with a catlike humanoid from a crashed starship--a first contact which may prove key to the survival of both races.
fortuneswheel.jpg (2680 bytes) Fortune's Wheel by Lisanne Norman **
Synopsis::  Carrie was the daughter of the human governor of the colony planet Keiss. Kusac was the son and the heir of the Sholan Clan Lord. Both were telepaths and the bond they formed was compounded equally of love and mind power. Now they were about to be thrust into an interstellar conflict, as factions on both their worlds sought to use their powers for their own ends.
firemargin.jpg (2576 bytes) Fire Margins by Lisanne Norman ***
Synopsis: The third novel in this series find the hybrid race with all of the powers and none of the inhibitions of their two peoples--the feline-like Sholan and humans. Will this new species bring a new era of understanding between the races, or will it destroy the delicate balance of power which now safeguards both civilizations.


Good plotting and in the hands of a better writer they could have been great books. Turning Point is short (thank goodness) and shows signs of possibility even though I wasn't able to suspend disbelief for long enough to really get into the story. Fortune's Wheel tries to be a romance novel and fails. In Fire Margins Ms. Norman actually begins to tell a coherent story. If she keeps writing she might yet develop into something. (As I remember I thought Diana Paxson's Westria novels were horrible beyond belief but she eventually found her voice and her later work is marvelous.)

Dark Nadir by Lisanne Norman ***
While fleeing from the Valtegans, the ship carrying Kaid, Kusac and Carrie is scooped up by a completely unknown race.  While on board Kusac is tortured; Kaid, Carrie and others are ruthlessly experiemented on by their captures and their Valtegan puppets.   Meanwhile, Dirt side on Shola, marriage contracts and petty politics dominate the scene.

This book reads as much like a political intrigue novel as a sci-fi but the Valtegans (the villains of the series) now become full characters with a past, a present and a future.  Well she's improving.  I still think she somewhat hobbled herself with her feline/human pair but her story is moving beyond cardboard characters in motion and I would definitely say I enjoyed this one more than any of the others.  I guess the question is now with 5 novels under her belt where does she stand?  I'd be forced to say firmly in the C+ category with a following of women who want more romance than science fiction (though my husband has read all of her books and rates her slightly higher than I do) .

 

scentofmagic.jpg (2408 bytes) Scent of Magic by Andre Norton ****
Synopsis:
The orphan Willadene has "the ability to recognize and name the most subtle of mixed scents," including the taint of evil. After she saves Hawice the Herbmistress from a magical trap, Hawice brings her to the Ducal castle. There Willadene meets the Duke's daughter Mahart, and Nicolas, who spies for the Duke. When Mahart is abducted after meeting Prince Lorien, her intended fiancé, Willadene, Nicolas, and the Prince set out to find her and track down those responsible.

What can I say.  This is vintage Andre Norton.  Given the woman's age reviewing her books now is a bit like the dancing bear.  It's a wonder she can write at all.  What I enjoyed about this was that it lacked the political correctness that her younger co-authors seem to through in all their joint efforts.  Scent of Magic has characters and a story and they go about their business supporting good and warring with evil.  If your a Norton fan this is something to be treasured as one of her last books.  I doubt if even she can keep it up much longer.

 

0886777356_m.gif (3273 bytes) The Stone Prince by Fiona Patton **
Synopsis: As the eternally rebellious Heathlands plot a bold new campaign of war, Crown Prince Demnor must not only overcome traitors within the court and the ever-growing rebel forces, but he must also master the birthright power which could well prove his doom.

This was for my trip to California and it wasn't a good choice.  I found the book overwhelmed in forced creativity, political correctness and author intrusion.  At best her character's bored me and at worst they offended me. Ms. Patton appears to be a competent enough writer but her tale is clearly intended for a different audience other than me.  Read the Left Hand of Darkness instead.