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Jenna Starborn    by Sharon Shinn order for
Jenna Starborn
by Sharon Shinn
Order:  USA  Can
Ace, 2002 (2002)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Shinn gives us a Jane Eyre re-telling, set in a stratified galactic civilization, where rights and social standing are determined by grades of citizenship. Young Jenna is only a half-citizen. She was commissioned from the Baldus gen-tanks by her Aunt Rentley, who lost interest in Jenna after science developed the means for her to have her own child, Jerret. She does provide Jenna with the basic amenities of life, but turns a blind eye to Jerret's continual abuse.

When one such episode sends Jenna to hospital, a doctor's intervention results in her being schooled at Lora Tech, where she finds friendship and discovers an innate talent with machinery, and especially with nuclear generators. Ultimately she takes a tech position to maintain the house generators at Thorrastone Park on a small, terraformed planet named Fieldstar. There she works for Everett Ravenbeck (an absent employer at first) and becomes fond of his small, lively ward Ameletta, the child's governess, and the house seneschal, Mrs. Farraday.

A Jane Eyre plot unfolds with the development of both an intellectual relationship and passionate feelings between Jenna and Everett, as well as the mystery of the wild creature confined at the mine on the property. When Ravenbeck's plan to wed Jenna is foiled, she flees (undergoing a dangerous cold-sleep) to the frontier world of Appalachia, where she is helped and befriended by the Raineys, who run a charitable institution. There's a Goddess religion of PanEquism, in which Jenna fervently believes, a legacy, and of course a disaster back on Fieldstar - if you've read the original, you'll guess how it all ends.

While Jenna Starborn is not the author's best (I recommend the Samaria series to you or Wrapt in Crystal) it is still a beguiling read.

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