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    THE BURNING TIME by Stephen Kenson


    ROC, August 2001

    Talon and his team of shadow runners have a straightforward task--penetrate a secure corporate environment, seize a cache of biohazardous materials, and turn it over to an unnamed buyer, no questions asked. It's exactly the type of job shadow runners take, but Talon wasn't counting on the sudden return of his long-dead lover, nor the vengeful assault of a fire spirit to complicate things.

    Roy Kilaro sees minor irregularities in his corporate data processing stream as an opportunity to get out of his systems analysis job and into the real world of covert operations. When he steps into Talon's run, what Kilaro intended as an opportunity for recognition turns into kidnapping, danger, and a setup.

    As the second third of the 21st century draws to a close, orcs, elves, dragons, and trolls maintain an uneasy relationship with humans, some enhanced by magic and others by science. The cataclysmic changes that brought about this new earth shattered governments, leaving corporations to battle for control of territory, leaving undesirable areas to criminals and gangs. With no serious legal system, the Shadow Runners have evolved, conducting either crime or crime prevention for a fee. (See also our review of TAILS YOU LOSE for another novel in this universe).

    THE BURNING TIME starts slowly, with an initial emphasis on Kilaro and on dupe Dan Otabi rather than the more central shadow runner team. As it builds to its climax, with the demonic Gallow moving to attack, the plot gains momentum.

    Author Stephen Kenson's capable prose makes THE BURNING TIME a fast read. I would have liked to see more emotional depth. Of all the characters in this novel, Kilaro undergoes the greatest transformation and is, therefore, potentially most interesting, yet most of his growth takes place off the stage cheating the reader.

    Two Stars

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