C.J. Cherryth, Angel with the Sword (1985)
Caroline Janice Cherryth is an award winning science fiction/fantasy novelist whose oeuvre exceeds sixty books, including Hugo winners Downbelow Station (1981) and Cyteen (1988).
Angel with the Sword is the initial book in the Merovingen Nights series to which other authors contributed. The setting is a fascinating city modeled somewhat on Vencie as it consists of Islands connected by canals and bridges. It is also a city dominated by class. The higher you live from the water, the wealthier and more powerful you are.
The story is about Altair Jones, a 17-year old young canal rat whose life changes dramatically the day she rescues a man who is thrown into the river next to her skif––a boat she lives on and earns a living by transporting goods from place to place in the city. Jones personality drives the story. She is relentless and fearless while at the same time doubting her every move.
After rescuing Mondragon, she becomes attached to him romantically and injects herself into his life, seeking to protect him from those who wanted him dead. The story is so focused on Jones that we never learn exactly why Mondragon was tossed into the river or what knowledge he possesses that he hopes will keep him alive, but that doesn’t matter. The core of the story is about Jones putting her life on the line again and again in order to protect Mondragon.
I’d not read anything by Cherryth in several years. The world building and writing in Angel with the Sword demonstrate why she is so highly regarded in the field of science fiction.
Patricia A. McKillip, Winter Rose (1996)
Patricia McKillip is another award winning fantasy/sci-fi novelist with more than thirty titles to her credit.
Winter Rose was nominated for a Nebula, the Locus Fantasy Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. A sequel, Solstice Wood, was published ten years later in 2006.
Winter Rose is as much a romance as it is a fantasy. It focuses on Rois who lives with her sister Laurel and their father, a farmer, in a late middle ages village. Rois encounters a man emerging from some other place into the world of humans. She is barely human herself and in this story she wanders back and forth between worlds in search of answers about herself, her mother, who died mysteriously, and the man who reminds the village of a curse sworn when a man killed his own father.
Some (romance readers) may enjoy McKillip’s treatment of Rois’ emotional struggles. I found it tedious and struggled to finish the story.
I obtained copies of these novels from a used bookstore that’s closing its retail business. More reviews from that pile to follow.