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Shattered Dance    by Caitlin Brennan order for
Shattered Dance
by Caitlin Brennan
Order:  USA  Can
Luna, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

As the first female horse mage, Valeria is used to being regarded with fear, respect and skepticism. What she's not used to, though, is being coddled. But ever since her pregnancy has begun to show, everyone around her treats her as though she's fragile and delicate, something this powerful woman doesn't want. From her lover Kerrec to her mother Morag, and every rider around her, it seems as though everyone has her best interests at heart but no one asks her what it is she wants. What Valeria wants most desperately is to give birth to a healthy baby girl and return to riding, teaching and performing her magic.

The birth comes to pass, but labor is the least of Valeria's problems. After her baby enters the world, she and Kerrec leave for the city of Aurelia. It's there that things take a turn for the worse. They learn that the Empress is sterile, and hope for an heir lies with Kerrec, who must marry a noblewoman. Although Valeria understands duty better than anyone, she's heartbroken and flees to the edges of the Empire. There, she meets Euan, the ruling Ard Ri whom she once loved and who now offers to make her his queen. When a horrifying evil returns to threaten the Aurelian Empire, Valeria may be asked to sacrifice more than she can bear to lose.

This is the third book in Brennan's White Magic series. As in the first two installments, this book centers on Valeria and her struggle to deal with the magic inside her and the external forces that threaten to destroy the Aurelian Empire. Filled with dramatic, emotional events that tug at the heartstrings with every decision Valeria makes, Shattered Dance is, in my opinion, the strongest of the three books so far.

Valeria has to face struggles unlike any she's had to stand against in the past. This time, beyond the evil that threatens the realm, Valeria has to deal with heartrending choices and a loss that may prove to be more than she can bear. The realistic, believable manner in which Valeria handles Karrec's sudden loss is intense, leading to further complications and choices that quickly send her on a spiraling downward path. Readers not familiar with the first two books in the series may find the beginning of Shattered Dance to be slow moving, but those who persevere will be rewarded with a story that's hard to put down.

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