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    Review of CONQUEROR'S MOON by Julian May


    Ace Books, January 2004

    When Didion not only rejected Cathra's claim of sovereignty, it executed the ambassadors, Prince Conrig of Cathra decides to claim the sovereignty by force. Of course, there's the little matter of getting an army across the high and well-defended mountains that separate the two nations, but Conrig has a plan for that--a plan based on the magical powers of the beautiful Princess Ullanoth. In return, she asks his support in her plans to be the next Queen of her own kingdom and plenty of money. Of course, a more fertile relationship isn't to be ruled out either--if Conrig's current wife can be dealt with.

    Conrig's plans would have failed quickly if not for the efforts of a young servant--Snudge. Snudge has a wild magical talent--one that even practiced mages cannot detect. The talent allows him to detect enemies spying on the prince--and track them to their hiding places. On one spy he discovers a stone that allows invisibility--a powerful tool for a spy or for a commando.

    Author Julian May offers a fascinating world and magical system. The political infighting and backbiting all ring true. Unlike much fantasy, May doesn't portray a battle of good against evil. All of the major characters, with the possible exception of the thief/spy Snudge, are morally ambivalent. Cathra's desire to conquer its neighbor may have been motivated by Didion's murder of the ambassadors, but Conrig would have attempted the conquest without the excuse. Although May's world is more real as a result of this decision, it also distances the reader from the action. Since we don't really like any of the characters (again with the possible exception of Snudge), it is hard to care too much whether Conrig's military adventure is successful or not.

    The sympathetic character of Snudge and May's strong writing work, however. I found myself getting emeshed in the story and wanting to find out what would happen next--even when I found the characters largely unsympthetic.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 3/07/04

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