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On Fire's Wings

by Christie Golden

(Luna Books, $13.95, paperback, 352 pages, 1 July 2004; ISBN: 0373802080.)

Review by Elizabeth Barrette

Luna Books is a relatively new imprint, out of Harlequin. The intent, first announced a year or so ago, is to showcase books that firmly cover scanbridge the genres of romance and speculative fiction. Many romance readers enjoy speculative motifs; many fantasy readers enjoy romantic subplots. I thought, that makes sense, maybe I'll give it a peek. I was not really expecting to have my socks blown off, but hey, this is Christie Golden.

The story begins with the end of the world. And then the story begins, again, with a young girl seeking customers for her prostitute mother. Kevla attracts the attention of a passing lord, who takes her into his keeping. She struggles to make a place for herself in a world that respects heritage more than talent, but Kevla holds a heritage that no one -- not her parents, not even herself -- expects. The time of the Dance approaches, when the Dancers work their magic to save the world. Or not, as the case may be, for each world is impermanent unless given solidity by the Dance.

I wasn't expecting a romance to be this edgy, or this complicated. There are in fact several very strong relationships threading through the novel, including the one between Kevla and Jashemi. The plot is full of fascinating cross-currents, not just between the emotional and adventurous parts, but also between destiny and stupidity. The story holds an overall pattern, a goal towards which everything wants to flow. But because the culture is badly flawed, a lot of the characters make mistake after ghastly mistake, dragging things off course. The question then becomes, can Kevla straighten out the resulting mess before it's too late?

On Fire's Wings holds great appeal for fantasy fans, with its epic plot and exquisitely detailed scenery. Romance fans will enjoy the intricate web of relationships amongst the characters. On the whole, this is a tightly woven story that shows how great slipstream fiction can be in the hands of a talented writer. Lest you think this book a fluke, Christie is well into the later books of the series; watch for the next one, In Stone's Clasp, due out in 2005.

Nor is Christie the only top-notch author in the line; others include Laura Anne Gilman, Catherine Asaro, and Mercedes Lackey. I've been impressed by several other Luna books that I've peeked at in the store. Keep your eye on this imprint.

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