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In Her Name    by Michael R. Hicks order for
In Her Name
by Michael R. Hicks
Order:  USA  Can
Imperial Guard, 2008 (2008)

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* *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Schulenburg

Reza Gard's world is about to disappear. Under attack from the alien Kreelan race, the young boy watches his parents fight the invaders to the death. Running for his life, he is caught by Tesh-Dar, a Kreelan priestess. Showing courage beyond his years, he strikes at her with his knife, leaving a wound that runs across her face. Impressed by his courage, Tesh-Dar gives Reza a matching wound - and leaves him with his life. As one of the few people left alive, Reza is sent to Hallmark, a planet filled with orphans whose parents have been killed. Used as slave labor, the orphans live a dangerous life, and Reza soon becomes the leader of a motley group trying their best to survive. When the Kreelans return, Reza expects to be killed. However, when Tesh-Dar recognizes him, he is instead captured, along with several thousand other children, and taken to the Kreelan homeworld, where he will be part of an experiement to see if the human animals can be taught to have a soul.

As a captive slave, Reza is treated like an animal. His keeper, Esah-Zhurah, teaches him the language and customs of Kreelan society, but also beats him and keeps him virtually caged. When he makes rapid progress in learning the ways of his new world, he is allowed a great honor - he will be trained in the ways of the Desh-Ka, the order of the warrior priestess Tesh-Dar, who has saved his life once again. He is expected to die quickly, but amazes his captors by becoming proficient in their warrior society. As he is immersed in the culture, he finds himself becoming more and more like the Kreelan - except, of course, that he is a man, and all the Kreelan warriors are women. As his relationship with his partner, Esah-Zhurah deepens, Tesh-Dar begins to wonder if he is the One fortold in a prophecy, who will bring redemption to the Kreelan people. As the time comes for his final testing, Esah-Zhurah performs an ancient blood ritual, tying the two together, and allowing Reza to experience for the first time the Bloodsong, making him truly Kreelan. However, his full acceptance of the Kreelan way brings with it a horrifying choice - to continue on his path, he must make war against humans. If he refuses, he must leave the Kreelans forever.

The choices Reza makes, and their inevitable consequences, make up the rest of this impressive first novel. Hicks blends fantasy, science fiction, and romance together to create a story that crosses genres, and will appeal to a wide range of readers. Weighing in at 600+ pages, it is not a novel for the faint of heart, but it is certainly well worth the time invested. I found myself unable to put it down, and spent the better part of a weekend engrossed in this amazing world.

Hicks has created some of the most memorable, likable characters I have read about in a long time. Reza is the quintessential coming-of-age hero, starting as a young, scared boy, and ending up a strong, confident warrior. He is surrounded by strong, powerful women, who each have their own struggles, allowing the reader to sympathize with them as they uncover their weaknesses. His villains are somewhat one-dimensional, being wholly evil, and there are times that the book may have benefitted from editing, as the plot gets slightly bogged down, but these are small quibbles. I was enchanted by the world Hicks has built, and would love to read more of it in the future. I highly recommend this novel to lovers of fantasy and science fiction, as well as anyone who enjoys an engrossing, fast-paced novel set in a new and fascinating world.

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