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Wyrms
Orson Scott Card
Narrated by Emily Janice Card, unabridged
Blackstone Audio, 11 hours, 30 minutes

Wyrms
Orson Scott Card
Born in Richland, Washington, Orson Scott Card grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He lived in Brazil for two years as an unpaid Mormon Church missionary, and received degrees from Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Kristine, and five children.

In an unprecedented fashion, Card won the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel two years in a row for Ender's Game and its sequel, Speaker for the Dead, in 1986 and 1987.

Orson Scott Card Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: A War of Gifts
SF Site Review: Space Boy
SF Site Review: Shadow of the Giant
SF Site Review: The Crystal City
SF Site Review: Wyrms
SF Site Review: Songmaster
SF Site Review: Ender's Shadow
SF Site Review: Ender's Shadow
SF Site Review: Enchantment
SF Site Review: Heartfire
SF Site Review: Homebody

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sarah Trowbridge

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Originally published in 1987, Wyrms is a quest story involving a teenage girl discovering the truth about her heritage and her birthright, and setting about the fulfillment of her destiny, as decreed by ancient prophecy. Patience learned at the age of five from her father, Lord Peace, that they are the rightful heirs to the throne: part of a long line of Heptarchs that once ruled the entire planet of Imakulata, and have held onto the realm of Korfu for the last thousand years. Lord Peace and Patience have lived for years, hidden in plain sight, as high-ranking slaves in the household of the usurper King Oruc. It turns out that the family birthright is an open secret, known by many, but never openly acknowledged, as such recognition would be high treason and punishable by death.

As the story opens, Patience is thirteen years old. She has undergone years of strict training as a diplomat (and, it turns out, as an assassin), under the care of her faithful tutor Angel. Early one morning, she is summoned to the King's presence and instructed to act as interpreter between one of the royal daughters and a suitor from the neighboring kingdom of Tassali. Before reporting to this assignment, Patience consults the severed and preserved -- and still quite communicative -- head of Lady Letheko, who, now as in life, is a highly valuable source of court intelligence and protocol observance. The crafty head-in-a-jar tartly and succinctly reveals to Patience the deeper truth of her identity: she is the seventh seventh seventh daughter of the dynasty: the one whom ancient prophecy claims will either save the world or bring its destruction -- depending on which of the various religious sects one might follow. It so happens that the courting prince hails from a nation of believers, ready to rally round Patience as the messiah, or perhaps the mother of a messiah, kicking off a bloody religious war. The interpreter's assignment is a setup, a trap set by Oruc to provide an excuse for getting rid of Patience, the last of her line. Our heroine extricates herself from the trap with a daring combination of mind-games and violence, buying herself two more years of time, until her father's death precipitates the quest that forms the backbone of the story.

From this promising start, the novel begins to wander. As the bumper sticker says, "not all who wander are lost," but as this story wanders farther and farther from its strong beginning, readers may indeed give it up as a lost cause. Wyrms meanders, falters, and loses a great deal of steam somewhere along the road Patience follows on her protracted journey toward the central city of Cranning. This is where the mysterious and ancient Unwyrm lurks, drawing Patience toward him with the irresistible "Cranning call," whose effect on Patience is something like what happens to dogs and cats when they go into heat. Patience and Angel set forth, collecting companions along the way in time-honored quest fashion, learning more and more about the history of their world and the nature of what lies waiting for Patience at journey's end. Colonized by humans who arrived from Earth in a starship at the start of the Heptarchs' dynasty, Imakulata is also home to three other sentient species: geblings, dwelfs, and gaunts. Some of the facts are gradually revealed about the intertwined histories of humans and these races, most particularly the geblings, when Patience and her entourage encounter the gebling sister and brother Reck and Ruin.

It may be that this novel would be better enjoyed in its printed form than as an audiobook. The characters never seem fully dimensional, though, and as a result it is difficult for the listener to invest much in the story's outcome. Patience's many unpleasant qualities, and the fact that we never get to know her in any depth, make it hard to root for her. Emily Janice Card, the author's daughter, possesses a voice well capable of characterizing the young female protagonist, but she is not a strong enough vocal stylist to express competently the various ages, genders, and species of the rest of the characters, nor is she an able enough storyteller to bring sufficient zest to a tale that is long on explanation and short on both action and character development. This audio rendering of an early Orson Scott Card work is probably best left to Card completists and die-hard fans of the novelist.

Copyright © 2008 Sarah Trowbridge

Sarah Trowbridge reads (and listens) compulsively, chronically, and eclectically. She is a public librarian in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.


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