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Kar Kalim
Deborah Christian
Tor Books, 320 pages

Kar Kalim

Deborah Christian
Deborah Christian's first novel was Mainline.

Deborah Christian's Website
Review: Mainline

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver


R'Inyalushni d'aal (Inya), the narrator of Deborah Christian's second novel (and first fantasy), Kar Kalim, is an arrogant, self-absorbed mage who, at best, is an unreliable narrator. Early in the novel, the reader realizes that although Inya's enemies may not be the most likable or admirable people, they are, nevertheless, probably nicer than Inya herself.

Primary among these characters is the merchant's son Murl Amrey, the young apprentice of Inya's former lover, Clavius Mericus. Inya agrees to take Amrey as a student despite her better judgement and several instances in which Amrey demonstrates himself more powerful and intelligent than Inya is willing to believe. In fact, Inya's unwillingness to accept that Amrey may be powerful is one of the major indications that she is unreliable as a narrator.

In a move the reader can obviously see as a mistake, Inya trains Amrey well enough to send him on a quest for a magical Styrcian stone. Amrey rebels against his erstwhile teacher and uses the quest to transform himself into Kar Kalim, the world-conqueror, who seeks revenge against Inya for her attempted betrayal. Kar Kalim's schemes against Inya's world of Drakmil forms the bulk of the novel.

Perhaps the most obvious source for Christian's novel is the work of Michael Moorcock. This debt is clearly seen in the existence of a multiverse in which certain individuals can travel relatively freely from world to world. Similarly, the scene in which the Midnight Rider summons an Elemental is extremely reminiscent of Elric of Melniboné's similar summonings of gods and elementals. As with Moorcock, characters frequently have long tongue-twister names with plenty of extraneous punctuation.

Christian's prose meanders from nearly poetic to plain awful. Occasionally she lapses into archaic and pseudo-archaic sentence structure ("There must I halt and be honest with self" p.97). Although this style may add character to the writing when used well, Christian's abuse of the language tends to cause the novel to bog down where it may otherwise have been interesting.

Behind the excessive verbiage, Christian does have ideas for interesting worlds and civilizations. Unfortunately her narrator is so dislikable the reader waits for Inya to receive her just desserts. However, the genre of fantasy follows certain rules. Although Christian breaks several of these rules to write a fantasy that is not run-of-the-mill, there are certain traditions which Christian doesn't break.

Copyright © 1997 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000 and Clavius in 2001 and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.

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