Monday, January 2, 2012

Caught in Crystal, by Patricia C. Wrede


Open Road, December 2011

This is a reissue of one of Wrede's older books, one of the five Lyra novels from the 1980s.

It's centuries after the Wars of Binding, and some institutions and customs are starting to break down. The Estarren alliance is beginning to come apart, with new polities and alliances encroaching around its edges. The Magic Seekers, ruthlessly determined to force the non-human races and human magic users to give their magic to them, are becoming a serious threat.

Kayl Larrinar, innkeeper in the small town of Copeham, lives quietly with her two children, mourning her late husband but living a happy and orderly life with her children, her friends, and her business.

Then Corrana, a sorceress of the Sisterhood of the Silver Star, asks for a room, and Kayl knows her life is about to change--again. The Sisterhood is threatened, and the key seems to lie in a secret expedition that Kayl was a part of, fifteen years ago, when she was one of the Sisterhood herself. Kayl resists, but when another member of that ill-fated expedition, the Varnan wizard Glyndon, appears, also bearing a warning, Kayl succumbs. She packs up her children, her sword, and her late husband's rod, and sets off with Corrana and Glyndon to confront her past.

The past, we learn, takes the form of the Twisted Tower, the deaths of several members of the expedition, and Kayl's departure from the Sisterhood after a dispute about how the disaster would be reported. The most unsettling thing for Kayl is not returning to the Star Hall, or seeing again Barthelmy, the only other surviving member of Kayl's Star in the sisterhood as well as, with Kayl and Glyndon, one of the three surviving members of the expedition. It's the discovery that their memories of what happened are not reliable, that important things happened that have been blocked from their memories.

In order to survive the building crisis, Kayl has to confront the Sisterhood, the Twisted Tower and what lies within, her own memories, and her feelings about both the Sisterhood and Glyndon. Wrede deals effectively with Kayl's conflicted feelings, the conflicts within the Sisterhood itself, and the political complexities that surround them.

Highly recommended.