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    THE FELINE WIZARD by Christopher Stasheff


    Del Rey, June 2000

    Balkis, the were-cat girl wizard and princess from THE CRUSADING WIZARD (see our review) is back with a story of her own. Kidnapped by the servants of an evil snake goddess, Balkis is sent deep into Bactria (the Eastern part of Alexander's ancient empire) and her uncle Prestor John and mentor the Royal Wizard Matthew Mantrell (Matt)are resolved to find her.

    Balkis uses her cat form to protect herself, finds a handsome young man to share her journey, and starts the long voyage back home. The novel turns into a travelogue as Balkis and Anthony meet strange people (think Gulliver's Travels), see strange sights (like fish that swim under the desert sand), and get to know each other. Balkis' magic is handicapped by her inability to think of the final rhyme. Anthony is the youngest son--for years, he has only been allowed to provide the last line of each poem. Together, they form a powerful partnership for magic.

    Matt traces much the same path with his friend, the dragon Stegoman. Stegoman meets a beautiful girl-dragon, but both his love, and that of Balkis' for Anthony, have social complexities that almost bring disaster.

    Christopher Stasheff (see more reviews of novels by this author) has wisely moved this series beyond the too-powerful Matt. The double romance of Balkis for Anthony and Stegoman for Dimetrolas forms an amusing counterpoint. I would have expected a little more difficulty in the resolution (as Matt struggled with when he wished to marry Alisande), however. Still, THE FELINE WIZARD is certainly an upturn in this fabulous, but aging, series.

    Two Stars

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