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    Review of ANGELICA by Sharon Shinn


    Ace Books, March 2003

    Review by Jennifer Vilches

    Jovah carried his followers to Samaria hundreds of years ago where they settled into a low-tech life, safe from the wars of their home world. Jovah also created a race of angels to watch over the people of Samaria and sing prayers for weather and plague assistance. Gaaron is about to become the archangel, the leader of the host of angels, and now searches Samaria for the wife Jovah has decreed for him through the oracles. Susannah, one of the Edori nomads, is becoming increasingly unhappy with the wandering eye of her lover Dathan. When Gaaron shows up at her camp and announces that she is his intended bride, she surprises everyone by agreeing to return with him.

    Gaaron has little time for the reluctant Susannah, as the country is plagued with mysterious strangers that appear and disappear without a trace and the unexplained destruction of remote camps and farmsteads. As Gaaron tries to solve the problem of the strangers, the lonely Susannah befriends his recklessly wild sister Miriam. When Miriam is fostered in a distant city after one of her more disastrous exploits, she runs away to the Edori. But once there, she learns life-lessons in spite of herself and begins an unexpected romance.

    This is Shinn's fourth book about Samaria. Even though this book is a prequel to the first three and can be read alone, you should probably read at least one or two of the earlier books in order to understand the setting. Samaria is a fascinating place and Shinn populates it with interesting characters and cultures. As world-building goes, it reminds me of Anne McCaffrey's Pern - with angels instead of dragons and more of an emphasis on relationships.

    Shinn is very good at romance with a touch of science fiction, but this is not her best effort. The slowly developing relationship between Gaaron and Susannah isn't as compelling as it should be - Miriam's journey is far more interesting. The peril posed by the mysterious strangers feels oddly distant and somewhat contrived. After the leisurely character development that takes place in the bulk of the book, I felt short-changed by the quick wrap-up ending which I ultimately couldn't buy into.

    Shinn can and has done much better as far as spark-flying romance and consistent plotting. Try Archangel or Jovah's Angel for a better introduction to Samaria, but if you just can't get enough of Shinn's angels, read Angelica as well.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 9/01/04

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