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The Hollow Crown: A Novel of Crosspointe by Diana Pharaoh Francis
Review by Lucy Schmeidler
Roc Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451463395
Date: 01 June 2010 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Crosspointe is a tiny island nation in the middle of the Inland Sea. The sea teems with sylveth, a magical substance that, on contact, can turn ordinary men and women into dangerous beasts, or into majicars, or Pilots, or makers of the compasses that alone can help Pilots navigate the Inland Sea without danger from the various hazards that crowd its bottom. Sylveth that has become separated from the sea and dried and hardened is harmless to touch and can be worked into jewelry and other objects of beauty, or used for lamps or other magical objects crafted by the majicars for everyone's use.

Upon the death of the reigning king or queen, the next monarch is elected from among all eligible members of the Rampling family. However, before King William's assassination, he had been maneuvered into naming Geoffrey Truehelm, his family's worst enemy, as regent.

Unknown to any but her brothers, Ryland and Vaughn, William had been training his daughter, Margaret, who appears in public as a fragile and vapid doll, to serve him as a spy and assassin, and even her brothers have no idea of the extent of her ability. As Margaret goes beyond the simple errand set by her brother Ryland, she raids the regent's office, where she discovers letters her brothers would want to see, and also a note that Geoffrey had kidnapped the secret son of his own chief supporter, Nicholas Weverton.

Margaret is torn between letting Weverton suffer and saving an innocent child. The second impulse wins out and she goes to Weverton, tells him what she knows, and then, moved by his obvious love and willingness to do anything to save his son, she leads him on a rescue mission. Learning of the regent's outright treachery against Crosspointe, and unable to reach her brothers, Margaret finds she must take action on her own to save Crosspointe.

This heroic fantasy involves sneaking and fighting, dirty politics and unlikely alliances, but I was particularly enthralled by Margaret's emerging strength of character and by the unusual magic of Crosspointe and the mystery of sylveth. This is Francis's fourth novel set in that intriguing country; I look forward to any more she pens.

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