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Irresistible Forces
edited by Catherine Asaro
New American Library, 383 pages

Art: Suzanne Lee
Irresistible Forces
Catherine Asaro
Catherine Asaro is a physicist at Molecudyne Research. She earned her PhD in chemical physics from Harvard, and a BS from UCLA. She also writes science fiction, a blend of hard SF with space adventure. Her debut novel, Primary Inversion, is in its second printing, Catch the Lightning won the 1997 Sapphire Award, and The Last Hawk is a Nebula nominee along with her novella, "Aurora In Four Voices" (Analog, Dec 98). The books are stand-alone novels, but take place in the same universe. Her husband, John Cannizzo, is the proverbial NASA rocket scientist, and an excellent resource for a writer of romantic space adventure!

Catherine Asaro Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Skyfall
SF Site Review: The Last Hawk
SF Site Review: The Veiled Web
SF Site Review: The Quantum Rose
SF Site Review: The Radiant Seas
Excerpt: Primary Inversion
Excerpt: Catch the Lightning
Excerpt: The Last Hawk

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

In this romantic fantasy anthology, six amazing writers take us on some wondrous journeys.

In "Winterfair's Gifts," Louis McMaster Bujold introduces us to Armsman Roic, who is one of the house guards for Miles Vorkosigan, who is about to marry. Guests and presents are flooding in. One guest is Miles's sergeant and ex-lover, Taura, a beautiful if imposing genetically engineered solider. Unfortunately, someone doesn't want to marriage to go off as planned, and has planted a nasty surprise for the bride. It's a neat story told from the romantic lead's viewpoint. He's a sweet, clumsy but well meaning man. He learns some lessons about trusting himself and about love.

Mary Jo Putney gives us "The Alchemical Marriage," where weather mage Sir Adam Macrae will win his freedom from the tower of London if he can help turn the tide -- literally -- against the Spanish Armada. He must allow himself to trust the impetuous Isabel de Cortes, who desires to save England from the fate of a Spanish Inquisition and bloody war. Unfortunately such a working takes great power, power that they must learn to give into before they can wield it, a bit like love. It's a well written story, again from the point of view of the male, though we often visit Isabel as well. (This viewpoint will be employed in several of the stories, an unusual but wise approach that helps make the stories special.) I loved the idea of the guardians (people who have magic but keep it secret, trying to protect people from what troubles they can) and am looking forward to reading the series she's starting with this concept, the first book if which will be out this summer, A Kiss of Fate.

"Stained Glass Heart" by Catherine Asaro takes us on a lovely fantasy rich journey. Vyrl has fallen in love with the young girl he has been friends with all his life, but is engaged to become the consort to the head of the house of Majda. Neither of them want this marriage. Devron herself is in love with another, and Vyrl wants nothing more than to marry Lily and farm, but politics is politics. Unless Vyrl takes the one chance that will give him what he wants. The story is charming, but it is the world itself with its unicorns and colored bubbles that drift from the grass blades when rustled that gives the story a fairy tale quality, though there is technology a plenty. People who have read Catherine Asaro's work will be familiar with the world, and happy to re-visit some of the characters.

Deb Stover's "Skin Deep" is a funny play on the idea of going back and correcting the mistakes of our past. Nick Riley married Margo for the wrong reasons, stealing her from the man she was meant to be with. Now Nick is dead, in heaven -- barely -- and Margo is miserable. So, they decide to send Nick back to make things right, in the body of a very beautiful woman. But how can he make things right when the man meant for the woman he still loves is his greatest rival? I enjoyed this story a great deal because it's quite funny, watching Nick get used to his body, and trying to help Margo, who's pretty smart and realizes quickly that her new lawyer knows way to much about her is pleasant. The romance between Margo and Jared works very well, so even though you feel a tiny bit bad for Nick, you really do want them to get together.

Jo Beverly explains the "Trouble With Heroes," a somewhat dark story that resonates with anyone who has had to stay home while their loved ones go off to war. Jenny Hart has always loved Dan Fixer, but never really acknowledged it until the world changed. Blighters, a sort of ghostly life form that destroys life by zapping it and turning it into dust are rare. It is more the stuff of nightmare than reality, until one day the Blighters increase, taking out villages and forcing people to abandon their homes. The Fixers, with their strange, magical abilities, can sense and destroy these invisible monsters, but it takes much energy. Dan has some theories on how they might fight their war against them, but the price -- and there is always a price -- may be too high. This is a really well done story, contrasting WWII and other wars with the reality of Jenny's situation, creating a dynamic where we all feel keenly the sense of helplessness that one feels when all they have to do is try and keep on with their lives and wait -- wait for their loved ones to return, wait for the enemy to appear. This, and how the people react in the aftermath of the war is very realistic and bittersweet.

Jennifer Roberson revisits Robin of Locksley and his wife Marian in "Shadows in the Wood." Robin and Marian and their band are moving camp when a group of soldiers happen on to them. Robin, injured, and Marian manage to escape to a grove where faces seem to be carved into the trees. The mingling of their blood opens one of these trees, and a man appears. He has a quest for them. Get the sword Excalibur and return it to its rightful place, and thereby ensure England's future. The mingling of two favorite myths -- Arthurian Legend and Robin Hood -- is seamless, creating a wonderful and well drawn story. Unlike the other stories, Robin and Marian have already fallen in love (see Jennifer Roberson's Lady of the Forest, one of my favorite books) but, like in all the other stories, it is love that helps them find the power to triumph over even the darkest things.

Love can, indeed, be magic and these stories certainly prove it well.

Copyright © 2004 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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