Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**     = Enjoyable
*       = Good, with reservations


****Stealing the Elf-King's Roses

by Diane Duane

Reviewed October 20, 2003.
Warner Books, New York, 2002.  401 pages.
A Sonderbooks’ Stand-out of 2003:  #4, Science Fiction and Fantasy

Stealing the Elf-King’s Roses begins in an alternate universe, in Los Angeles.  Lee Enfield is in court, the prosecuting lanthanomancer who summons the presence of Justice Herself to show the truth from the suspect and assign an equitable sentence.  The people of her world know of five alternate Earths, and a sixth has just been discovered, though there is no travel to that world yet.

One of the alternate worlds is Alfheim, the home of the strangely perfect immortal Alfen people.  One feels that they look the way humans are supposed to look, and resentment against them is growing.

When an Elf is murdered in Los Angeles, and another mysterious Elf is present, but vanishes, Lee and her fayhound partner are drawn further and further into a mystery that brings them to Alfheim itself.  Once there, Lee’s Sight shows her things the Elves don’t intend her to see, and her actions end up having the potential to change the course of life in all the universes.

Although this book was fantasy, with mystic Sight and other magic, it had the feeling of science fiction.  It's more cerebral than most fantasy, with much of the interest being the details of how life goes on in these different worlds.  Lee is a sympathetic character.  She’s just been betrayed by the man she loved and still has to work with, and we hope that things will go better for her and she will survive this investigation.

My only quibble was that throughout the book I felt a little confused about how their world works, and at the end I wasn’t completely sure exactly what had happened.  Still, for the most part, this worked to keep me interested in what was happening and wanting to find out more.

I’m not crazy about the idea of alternate universes in books.  In Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy, he suggests that every choice we make creates an alternate world where we made the other choice.  If that’s the case, it seems to me it takes away the significance of our actions.  Why did the author choose to tell us about that particular world?  To me, it works against the very nature of Story.  The alternate universe in this book was more like those in Diana Wynne Jones’ books, with a specific number of worlds and people who can travel between them.  It makes a nice device for creating a world that’s familiar, yet uses magic.  It’s easier to explain than an entirely different universe.

Diane Duane is also the author of the delightful Young Wizards series.  This book proves that she can do an equally good job with books for adults.  I enjoyed this book thoroughly.

Reviews of other books by Diane Duane:
A Wizard Alone
Wizard's Holiday
Wizards at War
Games Wizards Play

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund. All rights reserved.

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