May 2004
© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Broken Crescent by S. Andrew Swann
Daw / Penguin Putnam PPBK: ISBN 075640214X PubDate: 05/01/04
Review by Jeffrey J. Lyons

368 pgs. List price $6.99
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Nate Black is a college student with plans to work in computer security when he graduates. After all as a teenager he acquired the moniker "Azrael," hacked his way into some of the best systems in the world and got away with it. Then one day he receives a cryptic e-mail from someone who knows his secret. When a stranger turns up at his door Nate figures the Feds have found him and he runs for it, first entering a mysterious void and then landing in a pre-tech world where humans rule over an alien race. Nate soon learns that this world may well shape his destiny.

Such is the story behind S. Andrew Swann's fascinating science fantasy novel Broken Crescent. At first Nate thinks he's lost his mind. No one speaks English. The people dress in robes and live in archaic villages. The College of Man rules with ancient magic to keep the ghadi race at bay. Nate unwittingly becomes a protégé of the College, tediously learning the language, and biding his time to find a way to escape back home.

Being a curious individual Nate takes his training an additional step. His years as a teen hacker taught him how to read code. Nate translates that knowledge into cracking the codes of the ancient magic, much to the dismay of the College, who fear that he may be the foretold Angel of Death, the savior of the ghadi but also destroyer of the humans. Nate does not believe a word of it but it becomes clear that those allegations might have some merit.

Broken Crescent leans toward fantasy rather than science fiction. Fantasy readers should enjoy the magic, ancient traditions, mythical creatures rising from the void and the touch of swordplay. Sci-Fi readers will be drawn to the oppressed alien race and the cracking of computer codes.

The book flies along briskly. It is an easy read with chapters mostly ten to twelve pages long. Swann delivers the punch when it is needed and keeps you interested throughout with compelling yet sometimes-deceitful characters firmly entrenched in their own belief systems. Nate's persistence in coping with his inexplicable circumstances coupled with his determined yearning to return to a world that makes sense allows the reader to empathize with his character. The book is appealing but it will leave you hanging at the end because it seems that a sequel is in the works.

© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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