Orson Scott Card, Author Tor Books $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-312-85054-8
Fifth in Hugo and Nebula winner Card's immensely popular Tales of Alvin Maker, this installment of alternative American history centers around two grievous social wrongs. Arthur Stuart, exiled King of England, reigns in Camelot (Charleston), capital of the slaveholding southern Crown Colonies; in New England, meanwhile, ""witchers"" connive to execute anyone with the ""knack,"" the ability to connect to the powers of the universe. Just before civil war erupts, telekinetic Alvin and his historical friends, such as John James Audubon, and legendary ones, such as riverman Mike Fink, set about to abolish New England's antiwitch laws, while Alvin's wife and mentor, Margaret, uses her ability to read human souls to offer the hope of freedom to the Colonies' slaves and to heal Alvin's malevolent brother before he can kill her husband. Card's antebellum settings, dialogue and historical figures seem authentic and thoroughly researched, and, as always, he offers excellent differentiation of characters. However, Card is as occasionally windy and preachy as ever, and the plethora of lengthy philosophical and/or psychological digressions make for considerably less fictional sizzle than fizzle. Consider this a good bet for fans of the series, but not for a wider readership. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
Genre: Fiction
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