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Stealing the Elf-King's Roses
Diane Duane
Warner Aspect, 401 pages

Stealing the Elf-King's Roses
Diane Duane
Born May 18, 1952, Diane Duane was raised in Roosevelt (Long Island), New York. In college she studied astronomy, astrophysics, then switched to nursing and became an RN specialized in psychiatry in 1974. Her fantasy was first published in 1979 with The Door into Fire, the first title in the Epic Tale of the Five series, which earned her two nominations for the John W. Campbell Award for best new science fiction/fantasy author. In 1987 she married Irish fantasy writer Peter Morwood and in 1988 relocated to a home near Baltinglass, Ireland, where she continues to reside. Duane has written a number of Star Trek and other media tie-in books, some in collaboration with her husband. With close to 30 novels, numerous short stories, and many publications/scripts for other media to her credit, Diane Duane also takes time to enjoy gardening, collecting recipes and cookbooks, as well as computers and electronic communications.

Diane Duane Website ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Young Wizards Series
SF Site Review: To Visit the Queen
SF Site Review: The Book of Night with Moon
SF Site Review: A Wizard Abroad

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Regina Lynn Preciado

Stealing the Elf-King's Roses is as much a mystery novel as it is science fiction.

Sure, the story involves alternate universes, takes for granted technologies we won't see for generations yet, and stars a crime-fighting team composed of a Sighted woman and a wolfhound-like alien. But it's still a first-rate murder mystery.

It's also the best kind of science fiction. Take away the sci-fi and you wouldn't have the story; but the story is not "about" the sci-fi. It's about people. After an elf is murdered in a seedy part of Ellay City, Lanthanomancer Lee Enfield and her partner Gelert begin what should be a routine investigation with a sudden sense that something isn't right. Their employer is too eager. Their allies are too nervous. And their lives are suddenly in too much danger.

If I sound like a jacket blurb, it's only because this was one of the more interesting novels I've read lately. I was familiar with Diane Duane's Young Wizards novels -- an engaging young adult series the publisher began to promote again in hopes of riding Harry Potter's broomtails -- and expected the Elf-King's Roses to be similar: pleasant, enjoyable, and fast. Instead I found a grown-up, satisfyingly convoluted mystery set in a futuristic but not impossible world.

That world is one of Duane's triumphs with this book. She never explains the technology or the magic; she doesn't lapse into narrative exposition and her characters don't find excuses to tell each other how things work. Yet it all makes sense, and you know from the first page you're in an alternate -- but very real -- world.

Everyone takes the daily miracles for granted, just like we do. Flip a switch, a light comes on. Press a button, the TV across the room changes channels. Slip a tiny plastic disk onto your eyeball, and myopia surrenders to clarity. Twitch certain jaw muscles, and your implant records everything you see and feel until you switch it off again.

Racing along with the mystery, it begins to dawn on you that there's more to this volume than a murder wrapped in a worldgate wrapped in a creation story. Each of the universes do reflect the Earth we know and should love -- that's what parallel dimensions do. But seen through Lee's and her companions' eyes during a brief visit to our own Earth, something more profound than entertainment emerges. There's a message here, if we want to hear it.

Copyright © 2003 Regina Lynn Preciado

Freelance writer Regina Lynn Preciado lives in her truck but maintains a household in Los Angeles. Find out what else she's reading in her book blog.

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