Fantasy/SF Book Reviews

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Daughters of Bast: The Hidden Land by Sarah Isidore

Eos, Sept., 1999.
Paperback, 373 pages.
ISBN: 0380803186.
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Cover of Daughters of Bast: The Hidden Land
by Sarah Isidore In the land of the Celts, the Druids are the spiritual leaders of the tribes. To cure a deadly plague, the Druids determine that they must sacrifice a black cat to their Gods. Veleda, a young girl with Druidic blood in her veins, is sent to find the cat. She finds a beautiful black cat, but sets it free at the last minute, although she knows she will incur the wrath of her people for doing so. The cat is actually a magical creature named Mau, and leads Veleda into the forest where she finds a fabulous temple and the Egyptian Goddess Bast. Bast gives Veleda special powers, and she returns to her people to train as a full Druid. Veleda has been chosen to lead her people against the invading Julius Caesar, and she will have many trials to face in order to free her people -- and perhaps even find true love for herself.

The Hidden Land is the first book in a trilogy of the Daughters of Bast. Author Sarah Isidore combines Celtic religious and spiritual practices with Egyptian mythology in an unusual and fascinating way. Veleda, the Druid who is caught up in the war between the beneficent and mysterious Bast and her evil sister, the Goddess Sekhmet, is a complex woman caught in forces beyond her understanding. The unusual mix of Celtic and Egyptian mythologies make an interesting background for the magic, action and romance which permeate this compelling story.

The Heart of a Witch by Judith Hawkes

Signet, April, 1999.
Paperback, 418 pages.
ISBN: 0451197224.
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Cover of The Heart of a Witch
by Judith Hawkes In upstate New York sometime in the late 1950s, teenaged twins Kip and Shelley Davis lived in a small and prosperous village named Green Hollow. The twins were always fascinated by the Victorian inn located across the street from their home. The Lockley Arms was home to wealthy and interesting guests, and the twins eventually got jobs there. But the Lockley Arms has its secrets; in residence is a witches coven, led by the beautiful Snow. When two of the thirteen members of the coven die, Kip and Shelley ask to take their places. Becoming members of the coven, they learn much about magic and themselves. But jealousy and an old crime rear their ugly heads, and Kip and Shelley become involved with events and forces which are beyond their powers to control.

Heart of a Witch is a compelling portrait, both of the Wiccan religion and of the growing pains that affect all adolescents. The story is really about the human heart; its passions, its desires and its dark side. Hawkes is a master of suspense and pacing; the story builds, slowly at first, then picking up pace until the shocking conclusion. Her prose is rich and seductive, providing an eerie yet compelling world for this unsettling, yet utterly engaging story. Highly recommended.

The Stone and the Maiden by Dennis Jones

Eos, August, 1999 .
Hardcover, 421 pages.
ISBN: 0380978016.
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Cover of The Stone and the Maiden
by Dennis Jones Mandine Dascaris is the heiress to the throne of the Ascendancy, the once-mighty, but now crumbling empire, ruled by the King, her ruthless father. Assisted by Erkai the Chain, an evil sorcerer, the barbaric Tathars are sweeping across the countryside, killing everyone in their path. With the help of her Gods, Mandine escapes, and meets a young soldier, Key Mec Brander, who will help her in her quest to find the Stigmata, an ancient magical relic which will help Mandine and Key vanquish Erkai and restore the Ascendancy to its former glory. On their journey, they will encounter adventure, magic and romance.

The Stone and the Maiden has all the right ingredients for a rousing fantasy tale: good, evil, magic and romance. Mandine's family is simply ghastly: neither her cold, ruthless father or her power-hungry stepsister are the types to engender any kind of positive family feeling. The fantasy world is well-imagined and the mythos is appealing. With the number of characters and subplots introduced, this story is well positioned for the sequel. An excellent entry which will please romantic fantasy fans.

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