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Angel-Seeker: A Novel of Samaria    by Sharon Shinn order for
by Sharon Shinn
Order:  USA  Can
Ace, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is the 5th entry in Shinn's delightful Samaria series, that began with Archangel, concluded in The Alleluia Files, and then returned to fill in earlier episodes. Samaria is a planet managed by the intercession of angels, whose songs communicate with a shipboard computer, Jovah. Angel-Seeker follows the first episode at a time when Jovah's true nature was not known.

Though it's largely angel Obadiah's story, other familiar characters from Archangel show up, including Rachel, Nathan and Magdalena. This is also the tale of two young women from very different backgrounds. Elizabeth, an orphan and unpaid drudge on her aunt and uncle's farm, grabs the opportunity to go to the new angel hold at Cedar Hills. There she joins a community of young women, 'angel-seekers', desperate to improve their lives by bearing an angelic baby - though few of them are aware of the risks involved. Elizabeth initially works in a laundry and is involved in a very one-sided relationship with angel David, who simply uses her to fill his sexual needs.

Obadiah is sent to Cedar Hills by archangel Gabriel, to open negotiations in Breven with the Jansai, who are threatening a caravan strike to protest Gabriel's ending their enslavement of the Edori. Obadiah is shot from the sky by a Jansai on one of his flights, and saved from death by a veiled Jansai woman journeying through the desert with her family - willful young Rebekah. Though attracted to Obadiah and unhappy with the restrictions of her life, Rebekah loves her mother and brothers, and fears change. But she and her cousin Martha dice with danger when they dress as boys to explore the world outside their homes. They engage in actions that their society punishes with death.

All these threads come together, when Elizabeth helps look after Obadiah on his return to Cedar Hills, is apprenticed to a healer and meets a man (not an angel) caught between two worlds. And Obadiah and Rebekah meet again and again, with dire consequences that are not unexpected. Angel-Seeker is another romantic and enthralling Samarian adventure. I enjoyed its exposure of new elements of that world, in particular the nature of the closed Jansai culture and its treatment of women, reminiscent of fundamentalist Muslim societies. I hope there will be many more Samaria episodes.

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