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Forerunner    by Andre Norton order for
by Andre Norton
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2012 (1987)
Softcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though I read everything written by Andre Norton on first publication, starting in my teens, I happily dived back into Forerunner and thoroughly enjoyed it once more.

As is the case in many of Norton's novels, her heroine Simsa starts out as the lowest of the low, living in the Burrows of the sprawling city of Kuxortal that 'stood on its own past'. The city's elite are the traders and the Guilds, as well as visiting starmen. Though not kin to her, Simsa was raised by Old One Ferwar, who was 'learned in strange ways', but who recently died, leaving Simsa unprotected.

Simsa is an unusual racial mix, with deep blueish black skin, and 'pure silver light' hair, which she blackens with soot. Simsa does have allies though - she rescued a pregnant broken-winged zorsal, and this intelligent creature and its two male offspring do her bidding and warn of danger. Now with Ferwar gone, and a star ship just planeted, Simsa decides to try to sell some of Ferwar's collected treasures to a starman, to garner enough money to leave the Burrows for a safer part of the city.

That plan soon launches Simsa on an unexpected and perilous adventure, along with off-worlder Thom Chan-li, who has come to the planet in search of his lost elder brother. A powerful Guild Lord is on their trail. They flee on the ocean, hugging the coast, and through desert lands to the Hard Hills, where Chan-li's brother sought ancient artefacts. There they find an oasis of healing, a source of radiation, ancient ruins, and Jacks (space pirates) looting old weapons that would 'mean ruin and death around the galaxy'.

How do they stop them? You'll have to read Forerunner to find out, but along the way Simsa learns a great deal (but not all) about who she is and where she came from, as she faces a new day. Though in many ways an interstellar Cinderella, Simsa (like so many others of Norton's heroines) does not wait around for a Prince Charming, but rather takes her life in her own hands and makes something of it. If you haven't read Andre Norton's many wonderful stories yet, then this one is a great place to start.

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