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Five Odd Honors    by Jane Lindskold order for
Five Odd Honors
by Jane Lindskold
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Jane Lindskold's Five Odd Honors is the third (following Thirteen Orphans and Nine Gates) in her excellent urban fantasy series, Breaking the Wall. A 213 B.C. bookburning in ancient China created a parallel world, the Lands Born from Smoke and Sacrifice. A dynastic power grab there resulted in the exile of Twelve imperial advisors to Earth and the creation of Thirteen Orphans, each with powers (based on the mah-jong game) and characteristics of animals from the Chinese zodiac.

In Thirteen Orphans, Brenda Morris learned that she is the heir of the Rat (her father Gaheris). Members of the Twelve were attacked, their memories stolen. Brenda's Auntie Pearl, the Tiger, gathered together Dog Riprap, Rooster Des Lee, and Rabbit Nissa. They vanquished and then allied with their attackers (Tiger Flying Claw, Snake Honey Dream and Dragon Righteous Drum) from the other world. In Nine Gates, they took the fight back to the Lands Born from Smoke and Sacrifice. Brenda was helped by a Sidhe woman from her maternal Irish ancestry, who warned her that, though they had destroyed a trap, the trapper was still free and active.

Now, as Five Odd Honors opens, Brenda's father Gaheris insists that she return to college to continue her studies. There she meets handsome Sidhe Parnell, who had already appeared in her dreams. He warns of coming danger, and offers a new alliance. While a frustrated Brenda struggles to make sense of his new magical tradition (the other half of her heritage) and to continue her training in Chinese magic, Pearl suffers debilitating nightmares and other attacks, and the Exiles prepare to launch their return to the Lands. They are helped by several re-embodied ghosts but face the opposition of the malicious spirit of Pearl's father, Thundering Heaven.

When the Exiles reach the Lands, they find them horribly transformed (by the actions of those now in power) and their families out of reach. It takes all their ingenuity to cross the barriers (including walls of water and fire) before them. But that's only the beginning of the terrible ordeal they must face, while their friends and allies (including Brenda and Parnell's Sidhe folk) attempt a rescue. This episode ends with the good guys badly damaged but (so far) undefeated and Brenda torn between two magical traditions, and between two attractive young men (Flying Claw and Parnell). I look forward to more in this unique and compelling fantasy series.

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