THE WIZARD'S WARD
Maura is used to a quiet life, caring for the sick with her vitcraft, or life magic. Her peaceful existence is shattered when she learns she is fated to be queen of her peoplebut only if she can find and wake the legendary "Waiting King," who will free the land from conquerors. Maura begins the search, with the enigmatic outlaw Rath her only companion.
Maura is out of place in this tale, seemingly drawn more from category romance than fantasy epic. Hale uses effective fantasy elements: heroic quests and innocent maidens, mysterious prophecies and dark magic. Unfortunately, rather than forming a cohesive whole, these seem like excuses to throw the hero and heroine together and in harm's way. There's nothing wrong with this, and fans of medieval romances will most likely enjoy Maura and Rath's adventures.
Although this makes for a decent fantasy romance, SF and fantasy readersthe market Luna is aiming for with this new linetend to expect more in the way of world-building and plotting. Women's speculative fiction needn't avoid romance; it should, however, be secondary to the heroine and her quest. Here the quest is the romance, and our heroine doesn't find any fulfillment outside of it. She is destined to be queen but only with a king at her side. She doesn't get to save the world, only find the hero who will. She deserves better, and so do we. (Apr., 448 pp., $13.95)
Jen Talley Exum