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    Review of SORCERY RISING by Jude Fisher


    DAW Books, July 2002

    The magic has been gone, captured and withheld in the ice fortress that is sanctuary, but now it beings to stir again. With all the world at the 'gather,' a huge trading fair and festival, the magic begins to exert itself--a love charm works, a spell to increase a girl's bust size overcompensates, and an angry cat gradually spits out the great spells of power. At the festival, Katla Aransen accidentally violates a sacred mountain and must hide from the brutal and anti-woman Istrians. Although her own people are ancient enemies of the Istrian Empire, the Empire is too powerful to challenge, even for a young woman's life. Around Katla, her family swirls. Her father becomes caught up in a compulsion to explore the frozen north--looking for magical gold and for the place called sanctuary.

    Virelai had been a captive and apprentice to the great master for decades--now, thanks to a sleeping potion, he is free. But he knows that his freedom will be fleeting, unless the master is killed in his long sleep. And with the magic stirring, the need to do something becomes increasingly urgent. When he hooks up with an Istrian nobleman, Virelai thinks that his situation will improve--but he finds that he is once again a tool in the hands of others--and that his new master is every bit as cruel and far more violent than his own.

    With magic running wild, and with the ancient emnity between the Istrian (think Ottoman) and Eyra (think Viking) violence is barely contained at the best of times. When the Eyra King Ravn is entranced by the beautiful Rosa Eldi, his command over his own forces wanes. Open warfare breaks out and the great fair is disrupted. All forces retreat to their strongholds, lick their wounds, and plot the next steps in the battle between kingdoms--little reckoning on the true war--that of magic--that lies beneath the surface.

    In SORCERY RISING, author Jude Fisher (see more reviews of novels by Fisher) delivers some powerful worldbuilding. The return of magic theme, the various peoples who populate this fantasy world, and the mythologies that sustain and drive them are all powerful and intriguing. Too much of this novel, however, is just that--world building and stage setting. With no really admirable characters (Katla comes closest, but she is too careless of others' safety to be really sympathetic), SORCERY RISING feels like stage-setting for the series. Fisher's writing and world-building is almost strong enough to disguise the fact that nothing really happens in this novel. I'm looking forward to the next in the series, but with the smallest bit of a feeling that I ate a meal only to discover that it disappeared before it really sunk in.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 10/04/02

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