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Cary Osborne
Ace Books, 262 pages

Art: Royo
Cary Osborne
Cary Osborne is also the author of the Iroshi trilogy (Iroshi, The Glaive, and Persea) and Deathweave. She lives in Norman, Oklahoma. She is currently at work on a fantasy. 

ISFDB Bibliography
Cary Osborne Tribute Site
Cary Osborne Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Thomas Myer

Arden Grenfell has big trouble on her hands. As head of the elite Imperial guard, she must prepare for the ascension of the first Empress of Glory -- and quell a rebellion within the military, of which some members resent having a woman on the throne. 

But who are the traitors, and who is merely not coping well with sudden change? General Hsing, commander-in-chief of the home guards, and so very physically close to the palace? Or General Radieux, who commands the military's heavily-defended armory on the vacuum world of Baltha? And what of the rank and file? How many of them are spies or traitors, ready to strike without warning? 

To add to the troubles, there is the matter of the lifeweave, a psychotropic-laced material that, when used, allows the user to leverage the powers of another dimension, including information about the future. Of course, there is a price: a gradual addiction that will eventually kill the user. 

Arden has already been using lifeweave, and her spirit guide, Pac Terhn, has bound her to serve the new Empress, either until the Empress dies or dismisses her from service. As the pressure mounts, Arden finds herself more and more dependent on the lifeweave -- who wouldn't want to know where an enemy will strike? 

Furthermore, there is the reappearance of Rafe Semmes, a handsome, rugged salvage ship captain and Arden's paramour. I was delighted by his character, only because too many SF freighter captains are just mere shadows of Han Solo. 

This sequel to Deathweave is a strong voice in the strong-yet-feminine-female-warrior-acts-selflessly-to-safeguard-the-empire arena. For starters, I don't think the sub-genre has run out of gas yet -- I sincerely believe that we need more strong female characters, because I think it will attract more female readers, to the enhancement of SF. 

Specifically, Darkloom is a great yarn, with an excellent set of core characters. I found myself wrapped up in the storyline, and caring about what happened to the half-dozen or so characters that anchor the telling of the tale. Cary Osborne manages to carry a subtext of equal rights thoughtfully and unobtrusively while sprinkling in cleanly executed sword fights and vivid lifeweave-induced dimension shifting. 

As ambitious as this narrative is, presenting a strong, courageous woman without resorting to outright sex appeal or other cheap shots employed by the likes of Ian Fleming and other men, there are a few ruts and potholes in the novel. 

For one, the planet Glory seemed flat. I got no feeling for the distances between major settings (the palace, the summer palace, the monastery), nor a good look at the common people, whether villagers or city dwellers. Everyone was either a monk, a soldier, a servant, or a worthy. No shopkeepers, or children. 

For another, there were occasional shifts in perspective within a scene that were fumbled a bit -- just a minor annoyance in an otherwise smoothly executed telling. 

As a strong female characters go, I would rank Arden Grenfell with any female character created by Tanith Lee, Wilhelmina Baird, or Severna Park. She is a full person: a warrior, a thinker, an addict, a seeress, and a lover. 

Copyright © 1998 Thomas Myer

Thomas Myer is a technical writer with Cisco Systems, Inc. He divides his time between reading, writing, and doing research. He can also make a game of pool interesting. 

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