cover image Markswoman


Rati Mehrotra. Harper Voyager, $15.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-256454-2

This enjoyably melodramatic science fiction and fantasy blend rings familiar sounds from slightly unusual bells. In a vastly depopulated Asia (here called Asiana) recovering from a long-past Great War that set civilization back to a medieval state, judicial executions are carried out by orders of trained, ascetic Marks-women who can read minds and are armed with psychically aware daggers. The blades, along with teleportation hubs, are gifts from mysterious visitors who “had come down from the stars.” Kyra, newly elevated to Markswoman status, makes her first kill, taking out a captured member of the outlaw gang that wiped out her village and left her to be raised by the Order of Kali. Fearing the order’s new headwoman, Kyra escapes and finds refuge with the shunned Order of Khur, the only all-male order. She plans to return and take command of the Order of Kali once she’s strong enough to duel the headwoman, a legendary fighter. One of the Khur members, Rustan, helps prepare Kyra for the duel despite his qualms over her moral stances. The setting is lightly sketched; though the Hindu goddess Kali is depicted with her typical attributes, the Order of Kali has few relevant rituals or observances, relegating a real-world religion to window dressing. Debut novelist Mehrotra ably paces her story, giving just enough hints and revealing just enough secrets, but the revelations won’t surprise any reader who’s familiar with fantasies with strong romance elements. Agent: Mary C. Moore, Kimberley Cameron & Associates. (Jan.)