cover image Rider at the Gate

Rider at the Gate

C. J. Cherryh. Warner Books, $21.95 (437pp) ISBN 978-0-446-51781-2

In this perceptive and carefully crafted coming-of-age novel, humans share a remote and arduous world with telepathic fauna who communicate their instincts and desires to receptive colonists. Chief among the beasts that seek out companionship with humans are the nighthorses, who enter into a near-symbiotic relationship with their chosen partners, who become the riders and protectors of the world's isolated villages and the convoys needed to supply them. When Guil Stuart's lover, Aby Dale, is killed while guarding one such convoy, the rider sets out in a frenzy with his nighthorse, Burn, to avenge her death. While townsfolk urge that he be killed, three ostensible friends set out to find and help him, accompanied by novice rider Danny Fisher. A town boy sought out by the nighthorse Cloud, Danny was raised to fear and to hate communion with the beasts, which were reviled by the preachers, and was guided in his adjustment to rider life by the older, rider-bred Stuart. Also following Stuart into the wild is Ancel Harper, an old enemy with an obscure and dangerous grudge. Cherryh never overwhelms the narrative with exposition, skillfully unfolding her society of humans and aliens so that the reader gradually understands past events and present situations. (Aug.)