Monday, August 27, 2007

Fifth Quarter

Fifth Quarter

Tanya Huff

Date: 01 August, 1995   —   $6.99   —   Book

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Fiction, Fantasy

In this return to the world that holds Shkoder, we go south to the Empire. In particular, we go south to the Imperial Army, where a pair of sibling assassins are set to take out a particular target. But a problem arises when Vree, the elder, is delayed, and comes upon her target already dying... and speaking to her as her brother Bannon.

Their target is a body-switcher, and Vree manages to take the essence of Bannon into herself. With two people inhabiting her body, she sets on the trail of her brother's body and the person who inhabits it, with the intention of restoring her brother. But the body-thief is very clever, and too canny to be forced out in turn. He extracts a promise from the assassin that if she assists him to a body with a higher status, he'll allow her brother back in.

Most of the tension in the novel to the point where they enter the capitol is centered in Vree. She was raised in the army and very tightly disciplined. Her training as an assassin is beyond compare, as she has survived far longer than the average. Now she is completely without guidelines, with her hotheaded brother all too close for comfort, and as his memories very closely parallel hers, the boundaries between their personalities are very fragile. That alone makes for an entertaining novel.

But once they get to the capitol, a new complication arises from the body-thief's past, and there's living dead in the streets. Heh. That's a major geek point right there. As soon as you've brought zombies or their equivalent into the story, you're as good as gold. More to the point, Vree's relationship with the body-thief becomes complicated and confusing, as the implications of his... uh, lives... begin to sink into his head.

Huff is a solid writer. Her characters are well-rounded without being too realistic (this is, after all, a fantasy). If some of them are just a little too good to be true, well, what's the fun of writing about mediocre sorts?

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