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Eccentric Circles
Rebecca Lickiss
Ace Books, 218 pages

Judy York
Eccentric Circles
Rebecca Lickiss
Rebecca Lickiss has always been an avid reader, and began telling stories at an early age. She received her BS degree in Physics from George Mason University, and worked for a while as an engineer evaluating weapons software. She now lives in Colorado with her husband and children, where she spends her free time reading and writing. Eccentric Circles is her first novel.

Rebecca Lickiss Website
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A review by Victoria Strauss

The premise of this debut novel is that the world of Fairy is shaped by human imagination, as expressed in tales and books; and that changes made to Fairy shape the Human world in turn. It's an interesting idea that doesn't get much exercise in this featherweight fantasy.

When her great-grandmother Dickerson dies suddenly, Piper Pied is astonished to discover she's been left Grandma's house. There are disadvantages to accepting the bequest -- dealing with her eccentric family, for one thing, not to mention the chore of sorting through the thousands of books Grandma has accumulated over the years. Still, Piper figures it's about time she gave up her nomadic lifestyle.

But the house is only the first astonishment. Walking into the kitchen the morning after moving in, Piper finds an incredibly handsome man dressed in full medieval garb seated at her kitchen table. He's an elf, he explains matter-of-factly. And he needs her to help him solve Grandma's murder.

Piper doesn't know what to disbelieve first. Can the man -- Aelvarim -- really be an elf? Is Grandma's house really a kind of gateway between the worlds of Fairy and Human? And who in either world would have wanted to kill Grandma? But as Aelvarim draws Piper deeper into the world of Fairy, she has no choice but to believe -- not just in magic but in the murder, which is attested to by a growing number of clues. Everything seems to hinge on the novel Grandma was writing before her death -- a novel that seems to have completely vanished. Piper and Aelvarim must find it, before the worlds of Fairy and Human tear completely apart, and Fairy is destroyed forever.

Lickiss is engaging storyteller, and brings a nicely humorous feel to the narrative, particularly in her portrayal of Piper's very odd family. There are some clever touches, such as the explanation for Aelvarim's generic hunky-elf appearance: "Thank goodness for Tolkien," he comments. "Before him, elves were all short, ugly, nasty bastards." But there's not much to the murder mystery; and the influencing-Fairy-with-story idea bogs down in the extreme unimaginativeness of Grandma's novel, once it finally surfaces. The other side of this premise -- that Fairy has a reciprocal influence on the Human world -- is barely explored. And just as Piper's initial acceptance of Fairy comes much too fast (you'd think a person would be a bit more freaked out to discover that her home was an inter-dimensional gateway), the way she eventually solves things feels much too easy. It's reasonably diverting reading, but there's little substance here.

Copyright © 2001 Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel The Garden of the Stone is currently available from HarperCollins EOS. For details, visit her website.

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