Hand of Prophecy by Severna Park ReviewEos, March 1998.
Hardcover, 384 pages.
Ordering information: Amazon.com
On the planet Bellea-Naya, slavegirl Frenna serves the brutish veterinarian Olney Mallau of the Emirate Extension Service. Bred for generations to be the perfect companions by the former occupants of the planet, the Faraqui, Frenna's bloodlines mark her as a "Favored One." Like the other slaves in the conqured territories Frenna has been dosed at the age of 18 with a virus which gives her perfect health and no aging for twenty years. When the twenty years is up, the slave "Fails" and dies, agonizingly. When the Faraqui threaten to reinvade their old territories, Frenna's slave friends reveal that there is a cure for the Failure and that slaves don't have to die at the end of the 20 years. With three doses of the cure, Frenna escapes from Bellea-Naya only to be picked up by Rasha, one of the legendary Faraqui who bred the Favored Ones to be genetically attracted and subservient to the Faraqui. When Frenna resists this new life of slavery, Rasha dumps her on another Emirate world where she is taken on as a medic in an arena which uses slaves in gladitorial games. There she meets Troah, Rasha's disgraced, enslaved prophetess sister and Hallie a gladiator, and becomes involved in the underground movement to free the slaves.
Severna Park, author of the acclaimed Speaking Dreams, has crafted an intriguing tale with Hand of Prophecy. Although readers who have no interest in gladiator games may be less than thrilled with the lengthy details of the games and individual matches, they will nevertheless be drawn into the fascinating tale of Frenna's journey to freedom and a new identity. Although the novel is set in another world, readers will identify with many of the themes of the book: the power struggles in all relationships and the search for an identity by an outsider. Frenna's struggles to find out who she is and what she wants out of a life that before the cure was found had no choices or freedom at all are compelling and resonate with insight because of Park's gifts with language and her abilities to get inside the intricacies of human relationships. A thought provoking and surprisingly moving novel.
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