cover image Cup of Clay

Cup of Clay

Carole Nelson Douglas. Tor Books, $19.95 (329pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85146-0

A Minnesota newspaper reporter suddenly finds herself in the devastated world of Veil, where water is frequently poisonous and children are cast out because of mutations (or birth-banes) in this ecologically oriented fantasy. Alison Carver rescues five ragged, feral children, who call themselves the Littlelost, from a band of depraved miners. Soon afterward, she encounters a young man named Rowan, who informs her that Veil is a world of magic that has fallen on hard times because the earth has been poisoned. Rowan is on his way to a music competition to contend for the Cup of Earth, which has properties that can restore his blighted land of Desmeyne. When Alison enters the contest and wins the cup, Rowan is devastated, particularly when she reveals she is a woman; in sexist Veil females are highly sheltered and considered intellectually inferior. Although Alison agrees to use the powers of the Cup to aid Desmeyne, many barriers remain, including the prejudice of Rowan's people against Alison and the Littlelost. A spirited heroine, Alison aids the hero in his first quest and then bows out--for the time being only, one presumes, since this is the first of a projected trilogy by Douglas ( Good Night, Mr. Holmes ). (Sept.)