June 2004
2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Daughter of Exile by Isabel Glass
Tor HCVR: ISBN 0765307456 PubDate: 03/01/04
Review by Colleen R. Cahill

368 pgs. List price $ 24.95
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Romantic fantasies sometimes lean too hard on one aspect or the other when combining these genres. Too much fantasy and the love story becomes staid, too much romance and it feels like a bodice-ripper. The blend is just right in Isabel Glass' debut novel, Daughter of Exile: it is fantasy with magic and romance with feeling, but neither fight for dominance.

Lady Angarred Hashan has lived in the countryside since her father was exiled from court. As she was only four at the time, she does not know why he was exiled, nor does she really care. Her mother is dead and she prefers to run through the forest rather than worry about society.

With this start, I was expecting a spunky heroine who would fight for her wronged father and discover some hidden talent. Glass does not fall into this trap: it is soon clear that Lord Hashan is not totally sane and when he is assassinated, Angarred learns he had drained the estate of most of its value. The final straw is when Angarred is attacked: she decides to go to court in Pergodi to demand justice for her father's death and protection for herself. With only her father's stories of betrayal as a guide, her first days at court are filled with humiliation and cold shoulders. The only person who seems friendly is Lord Jerret Snoppish, which is ironic as Angarred's father counted the Snoppishes as his greatest enemies. The only other person she knows is the magician Mathewar, who is not very reliable, as he is addicted to the drug sattery.

It is clear things are not well in the court. The King is erratic and difficult to reach and the Queen is bedridden. Neither of the heirs are any better, as Princess Rodarren is mad and Prince Norue is power-hungry. Behind the scenes is the only magician left in court, Alkarren, who has a strange control over the King. Alkarren holds the Stone of Tobrin, an artifact of great power, but one he does not know how to fully use. All the other magicians have hidden themselves from Alkarren, not only for protection but to keep any knowledge they have of the stone from him.

This book is quite good and a fun read. Glass has avoided many of the cliches of both genres, creating complex and real characters while keeping the plot moving. She also avoids a predictable ending, except for maybe the romantic parts, but that did not detract from the work for me. The magic was more than court wizards and quests, with a few surprises both for and from Angarred. And there are enough strings left that Glass could continue this in a second book.

Don't let either the fantasy or romance deter you from reading this book. Certainly anyone who enjoys light fantasy will find this a good story. The romance is in there, but don't expect heaving breasts and smoldering glances. And if you like your romance realistic (in an emotional sense), along with a dash of adventure, then this is the book for you.

2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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