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Of Swords and Spells
Delia Marshall Turner
Del Rey Books, 218 pages

Of Swords and Spells
Delia Marshall Turner
Delia Marshall Turner teaches 4th and 5th grade science in a private boys' school. She's a ranked fencer competing in tournaments all over the United States.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Jonathan Fesmire

Of Swords and Spells is Delia Marshall Turner's second novel, and is set in the same magical universe as her first, Nameless Magery. When I started Of Swords and Spells, I found it difficult to get oriented in the story, as the setting is unusual for fantasy. By that I mean she uses a lot of science fiction elements, which took me mildly by surprise. Nevertheless, Turner's style should keep you grounded and her protagonist, Malka, will probably hook you. The ever-twisting plot is well worth following. Turner's prose is clear, descriptive, and paces the story well.

In Of Swords and Spells, magic drives technology. Untrained witches are pursued by Enforcement, the nasty cosmic cops who destroy all life on planets that break the law. Getting between worlds is easy for these orange-suited gendarmes -- the planets are all connected through "The Web," a sort of magical, cosmic net that makes travel between connected planets fast and easy, provided you have a ship with a magical drive.

This is the story of Malka, a short, sword-wielding, magical woman who is not quite human. The novel reveals just what she is, but not until near the end. Until then, we get little hints. Malka absorbs magic, commands people with her thoughts, and suffers from a fierce temper.

Enforcement discovers and pursues her until she makes it to a ship of renegade witches and their leader, an android named Roder. Roder's job is to make sure Enforcement doesn't overstep its bounds. So, when Enforcement decides to wipe out all life on the planet Mennenkalt, Roder and his crew try to stop them, and end up marooned on a world separated from the Web -- a world of wild magic.

When we get to Roder's ship, Turner introduces the crew so quickly that it's hard to keep them straight. For a while, I had to refer to their introductions as I read, flipping back to Chapter 4. Even then, they are only briefly described, and it took a while for me to have a clear picture of any of them, save maybe Roder, Octavian (the communications officer), and Cully (the cryptographer).

Malka would rather leave Roder and his vagabonds, but she's growing. The bigger she gets, the more her conscience develops, and the more human she becomes. Part of her just wants to flee Enforcement and her "little master," but she finds herself helping Roder -- even caring about him. Of Swords and Spells is told in Malka's own sarcastic voice, and though she may seem snippy and uncooperative to her shipmates, she is clearly in the greatest conflict with herself.

As certain characters in the book use layers of deception, so does the author. We learn more about Malka, Roder, the smelly sword master named Zul, and all the others as we go. Much of what Turner reveals stunned me.

To tell any more would be, well, telling. There are so many twists in this book, so many surprises, that I don't want to spoil any of them.

Of Swords and Spells is fantasy in science fiction clothing, and a nice addition to the growing cross-genre market. Pick it up, sit in your favourite chair, and enjoy as the novel unfolds, the scattered elements converge, and Malka... well, you'll see.

Copyright © 1999 by Jonathan Fesmire
Jonathan Fesmire has traveled to France, Germany, Estonia, Finland, and Ireland. He enjoys speaking French and learning bits of other foreign languages, but most of all, he loves writing, and has sold fiction to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, SpaceWays Weekly, Jackhammer, and others.

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