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The Arm of the Stone
Victoria Strauss
Avon EOS Books, $5.99 US/$7.99 Canada
Original paperback, 426 pages
Publication date: March 11, 1998
The Arm of the Stone
Victoria Strauss
Victoria Strauss is the author of three young adult fantasies: The Lady Of Rhuddesmere, Worldstone, and Guardian Of The Hills. The Arm of the Stone marks her first publication for an adult audience. She's a regular contributor to SF Site's reviews, and is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Author's Guild. A 'voracious and eclectic' reader, she lives in New York with her husband and three cats.

Victoria Strauss Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by S. Kay Elmore

In the half-light of a hearth fire, a woman bars the door and tells a story to her children. It's a tale they've heard a hundred times, but beg to hear again. Ten generations ago, their family possessed the Stone, a talisman so powerful that in the hands of their ancestor, it brought peace and prosperity to the world. But the Stone was stolen through treachery and murder, and is now held by the forces of evil. The sheer power of the Stone as wielded by its evil masters has split two worlds asunder; the world of mindpower, where the Stone resides, and the world of handpower, where great machines rule. The Stone is held captive by the corrupt Guardians at the Fortress, the seat of mindpower and the source of the Limits. The family has passed down this legend through the generations. They plead for the return of the ancestral gift of awesome power that will free the Stone, while hiding their very existence from those who hold them in exile.

Bron, a second son, soon learns that he is the carrier of that ancestral gift. Alone and terrified, he carefully crafts a plan that will allow him to reach the inner sanctum of the Stone and claim it as his own. But to do so, he must work within the confines of a dogmatic regime. Their only calling is to find and destroy any person who harbors handpower, even if it is one of their own.

Liliane, a daughter of luxury, wants nothing more than to serve the Stone. She gives up her life of comfort for the hardship and loss of the life of a Guardian. Her rare mindpower, akin to empathy, makes her painfully aware of the corruption that surrounds her and she hopes it will be enough to protect her from her enemies.

Victoria Strauss creates a world that is strict in every thought and deed. It's a world where the laws of the land, called the Limits, are followed with religious fervor. The purity of mindpower is guarded with zealous passion by those known as Roundheads, an order of enforcers -- the Arm of the Stone. They seek to stamp out any evidence of the innovations of handpower, fearing that if it is allowed to develop, it will again split their world and plunge them into chaos. She also gives us a hero clever and tenacious enough to imagine bringing this world to its knees.

The Arm of the Stone is an intelligent, fascinating novel. The story itself is enough to keep you interested, and the complicated politics and social structure of this world give it a depth most fantasy novels lack. I believe Strauss is sounding a clear message through this novel that is a blend of philosophies explored by both Ayn Rand and Aldous Huxley and it comes as no surprise that Victoria Strauss has a degree in comparative religion. She shows us a society that considers creativity, individualism and innovation as blasphemy, and holds what is obviously our modern world -- the world of handpower -- in contempt of the laws of purity. Then, she populates the world with sympathetic characters who attempt to either reform or protect this society in order to play on your very sense of right and wrong.

And yet there seems to be so much more lurking under the surface. This novel only hints at situations that could be pivotal to the future of the main characters. I'm resigned to the fact that she's done a very good job of hooking my interest in a sequel, and I hope I won't be disappointed. The open-endedness of this book and the many unanswered questions makes a second novel necessary, and I think, very much anticipated.

Copyright © 1998 S. Kay Elmore

S. Kay Elmore is a graphic artist, writer and corporate wage slave. She edits The Orphic Chronicle, an online magazine, and tries to make ends meet by writing and developing corporate newsletters and web sites.

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