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Circle of the Moon    by Barbara Hambly order for
Circle of the Moon
by Barbara Hambly
Order:  USA  Can
Aspect, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Barbara Hambly always presents her fans with unusual characters, and this series is no exception to that rule. She sets it in a world, where the rules of magic have suddenly changed and affected both economic and power structures. Men had it. Now, they've lost it, and a small number of women struggle to understand how to use their new powers.

In addition to this major shift in its power structure, the society this series is based upon (a patriarchal monarchy, the Realm of the Seven Lakes, based in the Yellow City, where woman are veiled and controlled by male family members) is struggling with a major environmental problem, a water shortage in a desert region. In the first book of the series, Sisters of the Raven, we met sensitive, intelligent, underestimated King Oryn II, who loves the exquisite Summerchild, his partner in all things. She gathered to her other women of power, including novice wizard Raeshaldis, the only woman trained in the College of the Mages of the Sun.

As this sequel opens, Shaldis hears a plea for help in her dreams from a woman of magical power, who tells her 'Our children are dying.' While she struggles to understand this, she's called on by her estranged family to find out who has been trying to kill the autocratic grandfather who previously threw her out for defying him. She finds signs of the involvement of a Crafty woman, but has no idea who it can be. Elderly ex-wizard Soth and Pomegranate fight a monstrous water dragon. Oryn's restive nobles manipulate him into agreeing to the Ceremony of the King's Jubilee, one that he only previously survived through wizardly manipulation - unfortunately Summerchild and her sisters can't perform the same magics.

The king's ambitious uncle Mohrvine, aided by his ruthless, powerful mother Red Silk, forces his daughter Foxfire to seek a way for him to survive the Jubilee if Oryn doesn't. People die mysteriously in an outlying settlement, Three Wells. The teyn (long enslaved but no longer controlled by men's magic) rebel, and Shaldis dreams of a perilous green mist, which strikes down one of their sisterhood. Events unfold in a surprising manner, leading to another huge societal change and the king's warning that what has passed is just the beginning of the threats facing his people. I look forward to more in this enthralling fantasy series.

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