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Wen Spencer
Baen Books, 376 pages

Wen Spencer
Wen Spencer grew up on the family farm in Evans City, Pennsylvania, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Information Science, and has worked various jobs from Aluminum Expediting to Medical Research and Museum Renovation. Spencer is also the author of Alien Taste, first in the Ukiah Oregon series.

Wen Spencer Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Tinker
SF Site Review: Dog Warrior
SF Site Review: Bitter Waters
SF Site Review: Tainted Trail

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sandra Scholes

Most of Baen's novels are either fantasy or science-fiction based, so finding one that encapsulates both is a real find in the true sense of the word. Tinker is the protagonist in this story, and was once a human. She somehow got to be made into the elf princess of Elfhome. Their realm just happens to be within Pittsburgh, a huge city with sixty thousand humans where elves are in the minority, hoping to live through a war that is coming. Winter is also on its way, and food isn't as plentiful as they had hoped either. As if this isn't enough to make Tinker alarmed, children have started to go missing, and Japanese Oni demons are preparing to attack the elves with the advantage of them not being seen.

Tinker originally grew up on the streets of Pittsburgh, with all its sorrow, hurt and pain, but becoming an elf princess has given her new freedom. Though with it has come the added responsibility to help her people survive the threat of the Oni invasion. She, as a princess rules over the Oni, Tengu and other elves in Elfhome, but her role is difficult and the humans with their hatred of other races make it harder for Tinker to do her job as a mediator. She has an especially awful time of finding the missing children as once the Oni have taken them prisoner; they will soon tire of them, and possibly kill them.

Tinker never thought that becoming a domana-caste elf princess meant her having so many duties to perform. Fighting off enemies, mediating, and using spells would never have been on her list, but somehow, her life before as an ordinary human female had been a lot easier to deal with. Not only are human and fantasy land fused together, but Pittsburgh has been made into a world dominated by Japanese themes, ninjas, creatures of folklore, the Oni, and Tengu to give it that extra unique spice. Their names fit in with the fantasy realm too, Blue Sky, Storm Song and Cloud Walker all sound like they have come straight out of a fantasy novel.

For those already familiar with Dragonlance style fantasy novels, this one will come as a surprise if they haven't already read the blurb about it on Amazon. It is part a voyage of discovery for Tinker as she is embroiled in a community where elves are trying to live among the Oni and Tengu, with little luck. Yet it is actually a comedy and the sort of book that wouldn't be out of place in a movie script.

Wen Spencer's novels that preceded this one were Tinker and Wolf Who Rules, and her love of anime and manga, and Japanese folklore in general led her to write them. Nothing Tinker does in this novel is perfect, far from it, but that is what gives her character and the others in the story such good personalities.

Clyde Caldwell's cover art evokes the feel of the story, and the dual aspect of fantasy and reality with the skyscrapers in the background and the dragon, and magic included. Wen Spencer has managed to create an enchanting and thought provoking world.

Copyright © 2012 Sandra Scholes

Sandra enjoys writing poetry about unusual things, and takes time out to write unusual fiction as well as reviews and essays for The British Fantasy Society, the GLR and Fantasy Book Review.

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