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    Review of BURNING TOWER by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

    Pocket Books, February 2005

    Thousands of years ago, the magic is running out. Although the firegod Yangin-Atep has 'gone mythical,' and manna is slowly seeping back into Tep's Town, throughout the world, manna is being used and once used, it cannot be replenished. But a few sources remain--and trade in manna-enabled objects remains central to the economies of the cities of what is now California. When huge birds begin attacking caravans and cutting off this trade, the leaders of Tep's Town send Sandry, a young lord, along with Burning Tower (the woman he loves), her half-sister and coyote-sired Clever Squirrel, as well as some mercenaries and a couple of 'Lordkin' to determine the source of the problem and to re-open the vital trade in magic.

    Terror birds had been known to caravaneers for ages, but never before had they organized. Clever Squirrel determines the only possible solution--they are being controlled by a god. But what god would want to destroy the profitable trade in manna-enriched items? And what can their trading party do against the power of a god? Their journey takes them across California and what is now the southwest U.S. to the mythical city of Aztlan--from whence Aztec culture descended. There's plenty of action and some clever plot twists along the way.

    Authors Larry Niven (see more reviews of novels by Niven) and Jerry Pournelle (see more reviews of novels by Pournelle) continue the saga begun in THE BURNING CITY. The 'end of magic' motif adds poignancy to the story--and creates a bit of moral ambiguity as Sandry and Burning Tower learn the motives behind the terror bird attacks.

    BURNING TOWER is a solid and enjoyable adventure. I did think that the relationship stuff felt a bit like an add-on, designed to make the book appeal to the teenaged girl audience. It was easy enough to tune out, though, and didn't detract from the story.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 3/26/05

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