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On Fire's Wings
Christie Golden
Luna, 408 pages

On Fire's Wings
Christie Golden
Christie Golden is the author of twenty-three novels and over a dozen short stories in the fields of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. In 1999 she won the Colorado Authors' League Top Hand Award for Best Genre Novel for A.D. 999, written under the pen name of Jadrien Bell. She launched TSR's gothic horror fantasy line with Vampire of the Mists, and has written several tie-in books and short stories for Star Trek, Voyager, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, among many others.

Christie Golden's Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Invasion America: On the Run
Interview and Excerpt at Luna Books

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

In the desert land of Arukan, Kevla is a Bai-sha: a girl born fatherless, without caste in a society where caste defines all social interaction. She spends her days in the marketplace, calling the services of her mother Keishla, a prostitute. Then one day a kashim, a clan leader, comes to carry her off to his lush estate, to be a servant in his house. Unbeknownst to Kevla, this man, Tahmu, is her father, and Kevla's mother was the great love of his life. But the rigid rules of caste decreed they could not wed, and while Tahmu submitted to a loveless marriage more fitting to his station, Keishla was forced to prostitution. Though Tahmu can't acknowledge the daughter born of their passion, he can give her a better life, and thus in some small measure atone for abandoning her mother.

Ignorant of her true heritage, never able to hope for more than a servant's position, Keishla nevertheless flourishes in the House of Four Waters. The cruelty of Tahmu's wife Yeshi, who guesses the truth, is outweighed by the kindness of Tahmu himself, and also by Kevla's growing bond with Tahmu's son Jashemi, her half-brother. But as Kevla crosses the threshold into womanhood, she begins to have terrifying dreams of the Great Dragon, god and lawgiver of Arukan, and discovers in herself an equally terrifying ability: the power to control fire. She can't confess these things, for the people of Arukan believe that to dream such dreams, to own such powers, is to be cursed by the kulis, the evil demons who live at the foot of the Dragon's mountain. But Jashemi too is dreaming, visions of lands and peoples completely unfamiliar to him, and has begun to believe that his dreams aren't a curse at all, but a warning of a deadly threat from beyond Arukan. When that threat proves real, Kevla is forced to follow her dreams through tragedy and rebirth, into an understanding of a destiny greater than Arukan -- greater even than the world.

On Fire's Wings seems at first to be a poignant coming-of-age tale: a young woman facing change and adversity, discovering both her own inner strength and the strength of the strange power within her. Hints are given in a prologue of something more, however, and as the novel progresses, its outlook gradually expanding beyond the insular realm of Arukan to a wider, more mysterious world, it becomes clear that both the context of Kevla's quest for self-awareness, and the transformation it drives her to confront, carry a much different significance than is initially apparent. Christie Golden builds the action and tension effectively to this point, and the shift in Kevla's perspective, when it comes, is both convincing and unexpected.

Golden creates an interestingly detailed, Eastern-influenced world, filled with appealing characters, complex relationships, and plenty of action. As with other novels in the Luna line, a strong romantic element is part of the mix -- with, in this case, a very unusual twist (it took me at least a chapter to believe the author really meant it). The climax, which brings the story to a resting point rather than a close, promises much more to come. First in the Final Dance series, this novel is a treat for fans of romantic fantasy.

Copyright © 2004 Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel, The Burning Land, is available from HarperCollins Eos. For more information, visit her website.

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