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Hammerfall    by C. J. Cherryh order for
by C. J. Cherryh
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

Hammerfall is the first book of a new series The Gene Wars, which certainly starts off with a bang: in fact with a whole series of earth-shaking bangs. Marak has suffered from and concealed his madness all his life. A village bred warrior, he has fought in the desert for many years with his father against the Ila, demi-goddess ruler of the world. Like many others, he is plagued by voices, and visions calling him to the East, to a silver tower, but has successfully hidden them until at last his secret is discovered. He is betrayed to the Ila's messengers by his own father, and forced to join a caravan of other mad men and women crossing the desert under guard to the Ila's city of Oburan.

There the Ila, who superficially resembles humans, gives him not the expected death but a mission. He is to take his mad caravan on across the terrible Eastern desert to find the tower of his visions and return. If he does, within a year, he will save his mother and sister from the Ila's vengeance. He overcomes the dangers of the desert storms and creatures, with the help of a woman of the desert tribes, who becomes his lover. They reach the tower, to find two powerful beings very like the Ila, and he learns of even more powerful beings who are beginning to destroy his world with hammerblows from the heavens. The two give him another even more impossible mission; to go back across the desert through the terrible barrage from the sky and bring back to safety all the warring villages and tribes, and the Ila herself and her priests, before the world is torn apart.

When the story is by C. J. Cherryh, the question is not 'Is it good?' the only question is 'How good?' In this case the answer is very good indeed. Marak and his lover Hati are intelligent, resourceful and appealing, and the action and excitement are relentless. I can't see how the author can maintain this level for the rest of the series but I am determined to read all of them and find out.

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