THE HIDDEN STARS: Book One of the Rune of Unmaking

Madeline Howard, Author
Madeline Howard, Author . Eos $14.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-057587-8
Reviewed on: 10/04/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004

Anyone willing to endure names like Éireamhóine and Baillébachlein will find that a pronunciation guide and a map are about all that's missing from Howard's solid first novel. Classical fantasy elements, such as the eternal war between Light and Dark and the royal-born savior adopted by ignorant strangers, share space with a surprisingly original setting and story. Nineteen years earlier, Master Wizard Éireamhóine spirited a baby princess away at the cost of his life. Now the harsh Empress Ouriána, a self-proclaimed dark goddess, thinks she has found the girl and sends her monstrous priests to destroy her. The healer Sindérian, the wizard Faolein and the half-fey Prince Ruan travel north, where the young woman's family is battling Ouriána's malevolent forces for control of the land, to learn whether she is indeed the long-lost princess, the only one who can destroy the empress. Some readers may be put off by the simplicity—the kings are always wise, the wizards are always clever and the protagonists always survive—but bloody warfare, intricate magic and deft portraits of characters and culture provide some sparkle and keep things moving. With its strong (and not overly sexualized) female characters, the series should particularly appeal to anyone wanting a feminist alternative to the current crop of genre sagas. Agent, Elizabeth Pomada. (Oct. 12)

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