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The Guardian
Denise Fleischer
Port Town Publishing, 369 pages


Jason Pedersen
The Guardian
Denise Fleischer
Denise Fleischer lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with her husband, Ernest and daughters Jennifer and Lauren. Since 1983, she's been employed at a community newspaper in Des Plaines, first as a typist/proofreader and later as a Lifestyle Editor.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

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The last place Lea Netera Payton expects to find herself is in the Atlantic Ocean, the victim of a forced portation. She is forced by the Dark Lord Seltar to accept a Challenge for the Guardianship of Earth. If she fails in any of the four major battles then all of Earth and its inhabitants go to feed the unholy appetites of his Elders. If she wins, then the Earth will be safe, and she will be its Guardian. The battles will take her though our past: to the Court of Louis the 14th and Marie Antoinette before the eve of their destruction, to the side of George Washington, to the Battle of the Alamo while she plays a dangerous game of Chess with one of the most evil beings ever created.

The Guardian is hard to summarize because so much happens. It is not like any other book that I've read, because not only does it carefully craft aspects of different genres, Denise Fleischer is also careful to work against many of the conventions. She doesn't just throw things in, she fits pieces in perfectly, creating a wondrous world where spirits flit though the background, where science and magic work hand in hand. Her travels open the whole world, even heaven, up to the reader.

You have Lea Netera, this absolutely perfect, fabulous all-powerful being, able to do so much good. She's mythic, larger than life, but with a sense of humor that makes her utterly believable, and a combination of toughness and vulnerability that make her human. She has to be larger than life. The tasks that are set for her are no walks in the park. They take not only her courage and fighting skills, but her skills as a tactician and diplomat as well. She is not the only strongly characterized person here. Every character, whether historical or fictional is well realized. I loved Benjamin Franklin's insatiable curiosity and Netera's almost fond understanding of it, of William Travis's compassion and worry for others. Even when he knows the impending battle may well kill him. You would think that it would be very hard for these historical characters to come to grips with visiting a star base or working with such incredibly technically advanced people, but the context is so well thought out that everything works perfectly.

The romance is interestingly developed. She is fated to be the wife of Lord Azaron, and you can tell that David Azaron loves her, but that love doesn't mean that he won't stand by (stand by gritting his teeth, but stand by none the less) while she's fighting these battles. He helps as he can. It's a very complicated romance. Even though she's trying to love Azaron (she has no choice), she still loves the man she was married to before. There are several men who are keenly attracted to her -- John Paul Jones and Dakota, for example. Her love for her husband keeps her loyal, but it doesn't mean that she doesn't have a heart big enough to return some measure of affection. And who could help but have an attraction for John Paul Jones?

The technology is very well written, and has an almost mystical feel. Ultima is a star base and the base of operations for the book. It is where Netera sends the souls who come to her, begging for release. Since Lea Netera is the sister of the creator of the Elezian universe (which sounds like the Greek Elysian, showing how subtly Fleischer adds the elements of myth in) there is the idea that these people are not gods by some mythical rite, but simply people so far advanced that they have mastered the abilities to create whole worlds. Netera is Mother Nature, literally, and shows it both in her powers and her attractiveness to men (I like to think it's both because she's such a nifty, pretty woman, and because mother nature, being a goddess of fertility, would be attractive in an instinctual way as well). Despite this, she's not unapproachable, but as human and real as any character you'd want.

Every setting is well drawn, whether it be on a star base, in Maren, or in historical earth. Denise Fleischer has done an amazing job with her research, making a world that feels tangible. She brings in the spiritual as well, which creates an interesting cast of odd creatures, ghosts and even dragons, that add a lot to the book.

A beautifully imagined mixture of science fiction, romance and history, Lea Netera's adventures through time make for a wonderful, page-turning experience. This Guardian has a magic all her own.

Copyright © 2003 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 www.apenandfire.com.


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