Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Orson Scott Card
Tor Books, 301 pages

Orson Scott Card
Born in Richland, WA, Orson Scott Card grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He lived in Brazil for two years as an unpaid Mormon Church missionary. He received degrees from Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. He lives in Greensboro, NC 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
Orson Scott Card Tribute Site
Orson Scott Card Tribute Site
Orson Scott Card Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver


After stalling with the fourth novel, Alvin Journeyman, Orson Scott Card's Alvin Maker series is back on track with Heartfire. In the previous novel, Alvin's quest to establish a Crystal City was sidelined by lawsuits which practically turned the novel into a John Grisham-like courtroom thriller. Neither Alvin nor Card seemed to make any real strides towards accomplishing Alvin's goal. In Heartfire, Alvin and his crew journey to New England, where people perceived as witches (like Alvin) are burned. The travellers' goal is to learn about town-building and tolerance. Meanwhile, Alvin's wife, Peggy, has arrived in Camelot to attempt to influence the monarchy's stand on the issue of slavery.

Heartfire is very definitely a middle book in a series. Card expects his readers to know who the characters are and what their situations are. This permits him to gloss over the events which occurred in the previous four novels. Unfortunately, it has been three years since Alvin Journeyman was released and many of Card's readers might find that they need reminders of what has been happening in the world of Hatrack River.

Despite the setbacks which occurred in Alvin Journeyman, Alvin and his comrades are still attempting to discover the meaning of Alvin's vision of a Crystal City on the southern shore of Lake Mizogan. Card has divided this book into two plot lines which alternate chapters. One follows Alvin, Arthur Stuart, Mike Fink and Verily Cooper into New England to study civics. While there, they meet men such as Jean-Jacques Audobon and John Adams and, once again, find themselves in a courtroom. The jurisprudence action in Heartfire is nowhere near as drawn out as in the last book. This band also discovers that tolerance is not as common as they had hoped, nor is law as straightforward as Alvin would like to believe.

The other story line, which gives the novel its title, tells of Alvin's wife, Peggy, and her journey to Camelot in the Crown Colonies to try to convince the king in exile, Arthur, that slavery must be abolished. In Camelot, Peggy runs into Calvin Miller and his compatriot Honore de Balzac. She, too, learns that the Crown Colonies are not everything they seem.

If there is an overriding theme to Heartfire, it would have to be Card's examination of the degradation of people. The black slaves Peggy sees in Camelot seem to be more content with their servitude than the slaves of Appalachee. It is only by looking for their heartfires, Peggy's knack, that she discovers how much different and how much worse their degradation is than slaves in other parts of the continent.

Heartfire seems more in line with the earlier Alvin Maker novels than Alvin Journeyman did. This gives reason to hope that the future novels, however many there might be, continue in this vein and that Alvin Journeyman was more an aberration from the tone of the series as a whole. However, it only took Card nineteen months to publish the first three novels in the series but nearly nine years more before the fourth and fifth books were published. With luck, Card will be able to bring out subsequent novels in a more timely fashion and bring the tale of Alvin Maker to the conclusion his fans would like to see.

Copyright © 1998 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000 and Clavius in 2001 and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide