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A Shadow on the Glass    by Ian Irvine order for
Shadow on the Glass
by Ian Irvine
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2001 (1998)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

A Shadow on the Glass is the first volume of a new series - The View from the Mirror - and it's off to a running start. It is set in Santhenar, where races from three other worlds intermingle with humans. Aachim, Faellem and Charon were trapped there eons ago when the Way Between the Worlds was shattered. Leaders of the remnants of these peoples still scheme to find a way to take them home, and it seems that an ancient artefact, the Mirror of Aachon, may hold the key.

The story starts in a leisurely fashion in Chanthed, on the final night of the Graduation Telling at its famous college, when the Zain Llian tells a revised version of the Great Tale of the Forbidding. He hopes to be granted the title of master chronicler, a type of tenure. Chroniclers seem to be a cross between old-style bards and historians. Unfortunately Llian has uncovered new information about the involvement of a crippled girl, which the master of his college wishes suppressed. He is maligned and eventually sent away from Chanthed. During his Telling, Llian is struck by the sight of an intense, red-haired young woman, who telepathically asks the significant question 'Who killed her?'

This book starts off with a mystery, but it swiftly accelerates into an adventure, which reminded me of a cross between Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Indiana Jones. It centers on the red-hair, Karan, who is a talented blending of races. Another young woman, Maigraith, is in the service of Faichand, leader of the Faellem. She calls in a debt and insists on Karan's help in a mission to steal a relic from the mancer Yggur in Fiz Gorgo. Karan agrees reluctantly. They sneak into Yggur's stronghold, but soon afterwards everything goes awry.

Karan shows her mettle in a daring escape but is afterwards pursued relentlessly by the Whelm; nasty characters in Yggur's service, but not fully under his control. Of course, Llian and Karan meet, and flee together through a series of hair-raising adventures that never let up. Unlike Butch and Sundance, they don't have to ask 'Who are those guys?' as they are well aware of who follows and why. Karan is a remarkably competent heroine, and her pairing with the bumbling dreamer Llian is entertaining. They find refuge for a brief time in the ethereal towers of Shazmak, where Karan was raised.

Betrayal soon follows and further pursuit leads to meetings with powerful players in this world and a true cliff-hanger of an ending. During the tale an unlikely romance develops between Karan and Llian; there is the potential of another involving Maigraith; and there are hints of a dark power (the Charon sorceror Rulke) pulling strings in the background. The stage is well set for the second volume, The Tower on the Rift, planned for early in 2002. I can't wait.

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