Fantasy/SF Book Reviews

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The Godmother's Web by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Ace Books, Feb., 1998.
Hardcover, 304 pages.
ISBN: 0441005039.
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Cover of The Godmother's Web
by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough Horse trainer Cindy Ellis sets out on a cross-country journey in Arizona to train a friend's horse for the trail. Before she has gone far, she encounters an elderly Navajo woman dressed in the traditional fashion wearing a fortune in beautiful turquoise jewelry. Kind-hearted by nature, Cindy allows the old woman to travel with her to the next town where Cindy intends to find relatives of the old woman to take her off Cindy's hands. When she finally finds the old woman's grandson, however, he merely laughs at the idea of his grandmother needing help. The pair's strange tour leads them into the sad and embittered world of the Navajos and Hopi reservations where traditional beliefs are sometimes at war with the riches and corrupting influence of the modern world. As the stories unfold it is clear that the old woman is much more than she seems and that the threads of all the different lives of the people they meet are subtly being woven into a web which can release the hurts and begin the healing process for this troubled people.

Nebula award-winning author Elizabeth Ann Scarborough has crafted a clever and magical fairy tale using the rich history of the Navajo and Hopi peoples. Populated with creatures from the old stories and modern-day humans struggling to make their way in a difficult world, Scarborough's America is a captivating destination. Deftly weaving reality, current social and environmental issues with fantasy elements, Scarborough creates a world which is at the same time, recognizable and mystical. Another excellent work by an author who is sure to become one of fantasy's greats.

Imposter by Valerie Freireich

Roc, Nov., 1997.
Paperback, 336 pages.
ISBN: 0451456165.
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Cover of Imposter by
Valerie Freireich The Polite Harmony of Worlds is a coalition of like-thinking worlds, most of which follow the Jonist belief system which advocates logic, politeness and a striving towards Order. Marcer Brice, an Altered Human, has achieved the status of Academic Researcher, despite the fact of his altered senses, which are looked down upon in the Harmony of Worlds. His alteration, an echo-locating ability similar to those of dolphins on ancient Earth, creates suspicion and fear among the populace so he has learned not to use his altered senses in public. While lecturing to a class, without warning or explanation, Brice is arrested and deported to a crude enemy world known as the Emirates which is ruled by despots. The Emirates culture is based on the old earth middle-eastern cultures with some strange variations. Men who agree to make the journey to Paradise return with beautiful wives known as the Houris -- cruel women with unearthly beauty and a strange power over men. Worshipped as divinities, the Houris bear only sons, never daughters which is much prized in this culture. The Sons are strange, warlike, cold men whose ambition knows no bounds. Destitute and on the run in a strange world, Brice becomes entangled in a web of lies, deceit and political maneuvering after saving the life of the most powerful Son of all -- Idryis Khan. Hoping only to return to his beloved Harmony, Brice's journey will take him from the dregs to the pinnacles of the Emirates society and will lead him to discover a horrifying threat to the survival of the human race which he must neutralize.

With Imposter Valerie Freireich firmly cements her standing as one of fantasy's rising stars. The universe containing the Polite Harmony of Worlds, the Emirates, and the Neulanders with their Altered Humans is fascinating and finely-drawn. With non-stop action and a likeable hero with a heart, Imposter is a fast-paced, intelligent read which further explores the themes of racial and sexual bigotry and prejudice introduced in her first book set in this universe, Becoming Human. A compelling new entry in an intriguing fantasy universe.

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