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Short Reviews by Carolyn Cushman  C.F. Bentley, Harmony (DAW 978-0-75640485-7, $24.95, 389pp, hc) August 2008. Cover by Larry Rostant. The world of Harmony and its colony planets are self-isolated from the rest of human space, a theocracy with a rigid caste system. Harmony is also the only source of Badger Metal, a substance that provides the only effective shielding against the invading alien Marils. The Confederated Star System sends agent Jake Hannigan to get hold of the secret to Badger Metal, but instead he becomes part of the entourage to the newest High Priestess Sissy, a young woman raised as one of the worker class, but possessed of the ability to talk to the planet itself – a legendary ability that gives her the power to challenge the High Priest – and even the rigid social structure of the society itself, if she can only learn to trust herself. This is only the first book in a series, but it presents a series of fascinating mysteries about Harmony and even the so-far-unseen Maril that promise interesting times to come. Peter V. Brett, The Painted Man (HarperVoyager 978-0-00-727613-4, £14.99, 542pp, hc) September 2008. As The Warded Man (Del Rey 978-0-345-50380-0, $25.00, 432pp, hc) March 2009. A boy starts to wonder why his people never fight back against the demons that attack them every night in this fantasy novel, the first in a new series set in a post-apocalyptic world. Legends say humans once relied on science, and were thus unprepared when hordes of demons, the corelings from underground, surfaced and nearly destroyed civilization. Ever since, people have cowered every night behind walls warded with runes, as demons seek to kill any humans or animals, fleeing only the sunlight that burns them. But after young Arlen’s mother is attacked by demons, he decides he has to do something, and runs away to learn the wards and become a Messenger. In his determination he learns things his people have forgotten about fighting demons. He eventually gains allies in Rojer, a young Jongleur-in-training whose parents were killed by demons, and the Herb Gatherer Leesha, who knows secrets women in her profession have kept from men for centuries. Together, they decide it’s time to stop hiding and fight – not realizing they may trigger a religious war in the process. This has the potential to be really grim, what with all the deaths and demons and cowering in the dark, but avoids that by focusing instead on able young people, and hope, to make a gripping adventure – a very promising start to a new series, and an excellent first novel. Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games (Scholastic Press 978-0-439-02348-1, $17.99, 487pp, hc) October 2008. Young people are forced to battle to the death on TV in this rousing young-adult SF post-apocalyptic thriller. In this future, the Panem government of North America uses the Hunger Games as a tool to remind citizens of the Capitol’s power, with an annual lottery calling up a boy and girl from each of the 12 districts to participate in a televised contest in which there can be only one survivor. Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her little sister’s place, expecting to die, but as the contest begins starts to realize she may have the skills to survive – if she can learn to stop caring too much about others, in particular the male tribute from her district. The gladitorial death-game reality-show scenario isn’t terribly original, but there’s a fascinating detailed culture surrounding it, and Katniss is a thoroughly likeable character, a true survivor who hates the game she’s forced to play – and the government that’s forcing her. This is only the first book in a series, and where the focus has been all on survival, rebellion should take center stage in the next volume… once Katniss manages to figure out how she really feels about the boys in her life. Julie E. Czerneda, Riders of the Storm (DAW 978-0-7564-0518-2, $24.95, 456pp, hc) September 2008. Cover by Luis Royo. The second volume in the Stratification series finds the exiled Yena clan members trying to get through a high mountain pass before winter, but failing. The Yena come from a jungle region, and know nothing of mountains or snow, but some of them start having visions and dreams, some terrifying, some educational, of people living here before, leading them to ruins with enough remaining supplies to keep the Yena alive, and maybe more – if they can avoid whatever killed the original inhabitants. Meanwhile, the other alien races on the planet, including Aryl’s mysterious offworlder, are showing unusual interest in the Yena exiles. This planet, with its odd mix of races in precarious balance, is a fascinating place; unfortunately this middle novel offers only tantalizing clues as to what’s really going on, but Aryl and her pal Enris have enough exciting adventures to keep things intriguing. Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, & Nathan Hale, Rapunzel’s Revenge (Bloomsbury USA 978-159990-288-3, $14.99, 144pp, tp) August 2008. Cover by Nathan Hale. Rapunzel gets a makeover in this amusing graphic novel, transformed from fairy tale to a Wild West tall tale. The witch, Gothel, has magic that controls growing things, but she’s also a wealthy mine owner, ever-expanding her domain and destroying the lands and lives of those that don’t pay tribute. She raises Rapunzel as her own child until the girl gets old enough to start asking questions and encounters her real mother – and gets imprisoned in a towering tree. This Rapunzel isn’t the sort to sit around and wait to get rescued, however. Once she realizes her hair is growing unnaturally fast she uses her braids in all sorts of ways, as rope, lasso, or whip. Eventually, she escapes, meets up with a rascal named Jack, and sets off to rescue her mother and put an end to Gothel’s evil – a picaresque journey through a magically warped Old West where jackalopes are real and European myths take New World forms. Shannon Hale has already demonstrated a knack for fairy tale retellings with her YA novels, and with her husband Dean’s help her talents translates nicely to graphic form, pleasantly illustrated in color Nathan Hale (no relation), with charmingly simple, clean-lined art that reminds me of both Charles Vess and Linda Medley (Castle Waiting). Sarah A. Hoyt, Gentleman Takes a Chance (Baen 978-1-4165-5593-3, $23.00, 324pp, hc) October 2008. Cover by Tom Kidd. Shapeshifters Kyrie Smith (panther) and Tom Ormson (dragon) are back, trying to keep their Colorado diner running despite snowstorms, dragon mobsters, and the Ancient Ones, a league of were-beasts determined that someone has to pay for the slaughter of shapeshifters that took place in Draw One in the Dark. At the same time, the Great Sky Dragon has declared Tom under the protection of his dragon triad, and won’t let Tom (even though he’s not an Asian dragon) refuse. And then there are the murders at the aquarium, where police officer Rafiel Trall (lion) keeps catching the scent of strange shifters. This assumes readers will remember previous events better than I did, but it’s still a fun, if somewhat chaotic, contemporary fantasy with some nice touches of romance, mystery, and humor. Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Duainfey (Baen 9781-4165-5552-0, $24.00, 318pp, hc) September 2008. Cover by Tom Kidd. Lee & Miller move into new territory with this fantasy novel, the first in a series which mixes elements of Jane Austen, faeries, and S&M. Rebecca Beauwelley was crippled and ‘‘ruined’’ by an ill-advised carriage ride with a drunken young man; now her father seeks to be rid of her by marrying her off to an older man in need of money. Rather than marry this cruel man, Rebecca runs off with the visiting Fey Lord Altimer – only to find too late that he has some exceedingly cruel plans, dragging her back to the Fey lands where he abuses her emotionally, magically, and sexually. It’s not as much of an erotic wallow in S&M as Laurell K. Hamilton’s faeries indulge in, but has some disturbing moments. It doesn’t help that Rebecca acts helpless, apparently intelligent but nowhere near questioning enough, and completely unaware that she has considerable abilities of her own. Only at the very end do we get clues that things are about to change drastically, and Rebecca may yet take control of her own life (and maybe get some revenge), leaving me actually looking forward to the next volume in the series. Violette Malan, The Soldier King (DAW 9780-7564-0516-8, $15.00, 372pp, tp) September 2008. Cover by Steve Stone. Mercenary Brothers Dhulyn and Parno return in their second fantasy adventure. Dhulyn still hopes to find someone to teach her to control her abilities as a Seer, but the two got sidetracked by a ruler needing mercenaries to fight off an invasion. During the fighting, the duo accidentally capture the enemy Prince Edmir, the heir to the throne of Tegriani, and try to return  p. 57 LOCUS October 2008 / 25

Locus 10/08

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