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    SAVAGE EMPIRE by Jean Lorrah

    Playboy Paperbacks, 1981

    Lenardo is a 'Reader' for the Aventine Empire--an ancient civilization battered by savages with the powers of adept magic at their command. Thus far, only the honed skills of the Empire's Readers have held back the savages. If the savages could add the powers of the Readers to their own force, they would be unstoppable. Indeed, even without this advantage, the Empire has been slowly forced back.

    One of Lenardo's former students has become a renegade, working with the very savages the Readers are sworn to defend against. Lenardo must seek him out, discover the reason for his actions, and somehow end them. If he fails, Lenardo can never return--but if he fails, he will have little to return to. Lenardo finds, however, that the world of the savages is more complex than he had imagined. Different adepts seek different goals. Some think of nothing but power and destruction. Others value healing and would be willing to find a compromise with the Empire. Indeed, the powers of the Adept and the Reader are almost perfect complements. The Reader can see but not change. The Adept control vast forces, but can only affect what they can see. Together, their power is nearly unstoppable--the threat that Lenardo is sent out to foil. To succeed, he must tap it himself. Of course it doesn't hurt that one of the adepts is a beautiful blonde.

    SAVAGE EMPIRE is a fast read. Lenardo is a sympathetic hero. He respects the Empire that trained him, but has the flexibility to change. Lorrah's magic system is fairly elegant and the mindless predjudices against any skills is well drawn. Written in a time when just about any book with a sword would sell, SAVAGE EMPIRE stands out.

    Three Stars

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