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The Bronze King    by Suzy McKee Charnas order for
Bronze King
by Suzy McKee Charnas
Order:  USA  Can
Wildside, 2001 (1985)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This first in the Sorcery Hall trilogy is an urban fantasy that could have been called The Kraken Awakes, though it otherwise bears no resemblance to John Wyndham's classic SF novel. It's written by Suzy McKee Charnas, well known for excellent feminist SF like Walk to the End of the World.

The fourteen-year-old heroine of The Bronze King is Valentine (who calls herself Tina). She lives with her mother, her parents having gone through a messy divorce. Her Granny Gran, who taught Val to make a wish by running water, is fading into senility. Otherwise her life is fairly normal until odd things begin to disappear around her in New York, from a tuna fish sandwich to the kitchen linoleum and a statue of King Jagiello in the park. She encounters, and is harassed by, members of a gang with 'Prince of Darkness' on their jackets. An old fiddler named Paavo rescues her with music, and she meets young Joel Wechsler, who is unsure of his talents in a family of brilliant musicians.

Valentine learns that Paavo has come to her assistance from Sorcery Hall, whose members work on keeping worlds out of trouble. It seems that Valentine's is under siege from a kraken, which is not the sea monster but rather 'a negative interstitial vortex with a big appetite' for worlds. Paavo, Valentine and Joel team up against the kraken and its minions, though Val and Joel argue most of the time. Valentine learns what love is from an old wizard from another plane, and Joel (though upset that a girl could save the day) does learn to take his talent seriously and that there are 'no magic formulas'.

It's great to see a teen series whose protagonist is a young woman who, with all the doubts normal to the teen years, has a strong inner core and sense of self. I enjoyed The Bronze King and look forward to The Silver Glove and The Golden Thread.

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