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    Review of THE BURNING LAND by Victoria Strauss (see her website)

    EOS, February 2004

    Gyalo Amdo Samchen, along with a pair of dreamers and a group of soldiers is sent into the burning land to rescue refugees sent into the desert by the now-deposed and atheistic Caryaxists. The burning land is more than a desert, though. It is the place where the god Arata laid down after his great battle against evil--the place where the prophet received his prophecy. Gyalo's mission seems to be a straighforward rescue, but as he travels, he begins to learn of high-level political ploys. Although the Caryaxists were overthrown, all is not well in the world and, increasingly, Gyalo finds himself at the center of a storm.

    To his shock, there is a large group of refugees living in an oasis in the burning land--including dreamer Axane. Some of them believe that he may be the next messenger (prophet) sent to lead them out to the promised land, but others fear he is a demon sent to destroy them. What he finds shakes his faith and forces him to confront his destiny. Because everything he has ever believed is suddenly turned on its head.

    Author Victoria Strauss delivers a stunningly powerful fantasy. THE BURNING LAND combines fascinating world-building with epic yet fully nuanced characters, and an exciting plot line. Gyalo's travels through the burning land are mirrored in the growth of his powers and insights, and the increase in his own doubts. Axane has always been a doubter, but her faith in humanity shows a hopeful path for the future--if anyone will dare take it. The somewhat ambiguous ending left me anxious for more--for a resolution to the question of what happened to Arata, and what happened to the new messenger.

    THE BURNING LAND is the best fantasy I've read in a long time. I highly recommend this one.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 1/06/04

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