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Tor.com -- February 2012

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Tor.com, February 2012

“Uncle Flower’s Homecoming Waltz” by Marissa K. Lingen
“Among the Silvering Herd” by Alyx Dellamonica
“Mother, Crone, Maiden” by Cat Hellisen
“New World Blues” by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Reviewed by Jo-Anne Odell

In “Uncle Flower’s Homecoming Waltz” by Marissa K. Lingen, twelve-year-old Zal is waiting for her Uncle Flower to return from the war.  She wants to tell him she’s growing up; she’s been having adult dreams.  In fact, she’s a century dreamer.  The information gleaned from dreams plays a big part in gaining intelligence for the war.  Her grandmother is proud, but when Uncle Flower returns, he’s worried.  He’s seen more than he wants to remember about what happens to dreamers in the war. 

The idea of dreams and their uses is a fascinating one, or I think it would be, were it explored.  Unfortunately, this story just flits across the surface, spending more time on whether Zal needs a dress than on the implications of having the dreams. 

“Among the Silvering Herd” by Alyx Dellamonica tells us of Gale, owner of the ship Nightjar.  Along with Garland Parrish, her handsome new first mate, she’s on her way to Redcap Island.  It’s supposed to be a wondrous place, where they harvest the powdered horn of a Greystag.  It has magical properties.  The rulers of Redcap have made a deal with a rival nation, but they want to find a way out, and hope Gale will come up with a viable plan for them.  She and Parrish accompany their host on the hunt, where Gale learns what she needs to know.

I really wanted to like this tale.  All the elements are very likeable.  But I felt like I was being dragged through a novel at high-speed, just catching glimpses here and there.  If the author were to build this into a full-length story, I’d be interested in reading it.

In “Mother, Crone, Maiden” by Cat Hellisen, Ilven listens to her mother’s droning, and daydreams about the boy she’s kissed, the one she wants to marry instead of the stranger to whom she’s been promised.  Ilven uses her gifts to see the various futures her choices might bring her.  There’s only one that holds any promise.  She takes it. 

The girl forced into an arranged marriage is worn material, but this is a well-written version. 

Aleisha takes on the Almighty in “New World Blues” by L. E. Modesitt Jr.  In order to gain a year’s pay and much-needed benefits for her daughter, Aleisha accepts a job that she knows has damaged the mind of her predecessor.  New technology will take her to a strange place, perhaps to an alternate reality, where she must confront a monster that thinks it’s a god.  Aleisha takes on the challenge.  What she gains from the experience outstrips salary and benefits. 

This is the most powerful of February’s offerings.  This tale feels like part of a much larger story, but this is the final scene.  The premise left me somewhat confused, with more questions than answers.  Regardless, it’s a compelling read.