Friday, 6 July 2001

Holly Lisle: Diplomacy of Wolves (1998)

Edition: Gollancz, 1999
Review number: 863

For the Secret Texts series, which this novel begins, Holly Lile has combined a fairly standard fantasy quest with a background drawn straight from post-apocalyptic science fiction. There are many similarities to, say, A Canticle for Liebowitz, with the major difference that the world destroying war was not nuclear but fought with magical weapons producing effects similar to fallout, persistent radiation and mutations.

One of the mutations, still occurring unpredictably, produces a being called a Karnee, a werewolf. Kait Galweigh is one of these, hidden by her immediate family - even though the Galweighs are one of the five clans known as the Families which rule the world, this won't save her from the priests' checks for impurity. Brought up to become a Family ambassador, she is acting as a chaperone for a cousin before her marriage when she overhears a plot to destroy the clan during the wedding, by using her heightened Karnee senses.

There are plots within plots, a great deal of complex manipulation and confrontation in this novel, and it is not all completely successfully depicted. Lisle is better at individual relationships, like the strange bond between Kait and a fellow Karnee from the enemy Sabir family than at the political machinations. There are nasty characters and unpleasant actions in the story, and again, Lisle is not quite up to making the psychological impact of these on the other characters believably disturbing. Nevertheless, this is an interesting novel and I want to read the rest of the series.

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