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    Review of THE SCORPION'S STRIKE by C. L. Talmadge


    The Toltec nation is in upheaval. Its ruler, Kefren is weak. While well-meaning, he tends to dither and is swayed by fanatical elements and by religious extremists in his council. The high priest, seeking to dominate the Toltecs, has found a weakness in Kefren's most powerful supporter--Lord James who violated the Toltec racial purity regulations and fathered a half-breed daughter, Helen. But his efforts to destroy Lord James and Helen risk the survival of Toltec supremacy as nomadic tribes on the outskirts of the island-continent probe for weakness.

    Despite her powerful protectors, Helen is stripped of her medical credentials and marked with the Toltec religious death-mark. As long as Lord James keeps her under his protection, his is weakened by his presumed heresy, but without his protection, Helen will be murdered. Like his king, however, Lord James cannot bring himself to take the steps necessary to protect himself, his family, and ultimately the kingdom. The cost in civil war of a direct assault on the religious establishment would be high indeed.

    Author C. L. Talmadge creates an intriguing world with interesting parallels to our own. The well-meaning but ultimately feeble Kefren and Lord James are clearly dooming themselves by their inability to make decisions, to unstick themselves from the uncomfortable places where they find themselves. Helen, who only recently reconciled with her father, Lord James, also finds herself unable to make a decision, unable to move forward, unable to pursue real goals.

    THE SCORPION'S STRIKE is a middle novel in the GREEN STONE OF HEALING series and suffers a bit from middle-book sag. Because neither Helen nor Lord James had strong goals, the story is driven by the religious extremists, with Helen and Lord James reacting rather than acting. Unfortunately, this made it difficult for me, as a reader, to get involved in the story or care deeply about the characters. Much of the conflict in the story was completely internal as Helen and others wrestle with their fears and try to make decisions that are unfortunately obvious.

    THE SCORPION'S STRIKE shows a lot of potential and interesting world-building. An abundance of characters make for sometimes-confusing continuity, especially perhaps, for those of us who joined the series in the middle, and the essential weakness the protagonists show in this novel make it difficult to really sympathize. On a minor note, use of actual race/culture names for races and cultures in the story (e.g., Toltecs and Nubians) had a tendency to pull me out of the story.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 8/31/08

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