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Thirteen Orphans
Jane Lindskold
Tor, 368 pages

Thirteen Orphans
Jane Lindskold
Jane Lindskold has written a number of novels including The Pipes Of Orpheus, Smoke And Mirrors and When The Gods Are Silent. She collaborated with Roger Zelazny on Donnerjack and lived with him during the final year of his life.

Jane Lindskold Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Wolf Hunting
SF Site Review: Legends Walking
SF Site Review: Changer
SF Site Review: Donnerjack with Roger Zelazny

Past Feature Reviews
A review by John Enzinas

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The foundation idea of Jane Lindskold's Thirteen Orphans is very clever. Imagine if Mahjong were not just a game, but also cleverly disguised mystic system which could be used to bind mystic forces to do your bidding. How did this happen? Well several generations ago, a group of power magicians fled to our world from a mystic China to protect their emperor. They used their powers to develop the enhanced Mahjong game to protect themselves. Then, each one of them, taking a symbol from the Chinese Zodiac (with a Cat added for their emperor), embedded their power within themselves and created the means for it to be handed down to their descendants.

The story begins with an unknown force appearing and stealing all memories of the power from some of the current thirteen. The remaining Orphans band together to face this menace and attempt to save their peers.

There are a number of other subplots as well but they don't really amount to anything other than angst.

In fact, that's part of the problem with the whole book. It's like a television pilot. It sets up the universe for the series and introduces the main characters, but none of them experience anything like growth and any drama. Tension is only there as a means to highlight the particular quirks of the characters. There are other similarities with a pilot. The cast of characters fits the Southern California demographic (albeit weighted towards Chinese, due to the subject matter). Also like a television show, only immediate problems are resolved and in such a manner as that nothing about the situation changes.

The other problem is that the author is extremely fond of as much exposition and unnecessary detail as possible. Many bits of the world are repeated and we are constantly told by the characters that they are feeling old or tire or sad or frustrated or that they have to go pee. Then they go and pee and then they go back to what they were doing. Much like that previous sentence, all it seems to do is bump up the word count. None of it ever amounts to anything or affects the story in any way. Most plans are explained before they happen and then the plan is retold as it unfolds.

Given this need to describe everything, it is both noticeable and frustrating when part of the story is left out for no obvious reason.

If you like stories about mystic China or about magic in the modern world, this is probably worth a look, but it is not a stand-out example of either genre. It's a good idea but an unpolished execution.

Copyright © 2009 John Enzinas

John Enzinas reads frequently and passionately. In his spare time he plays with swords.


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