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The Stone and the Maiden

 

Avon Eos (Hardcover), ISBN: 0-380-97801-6
The hippaxas and the Two invite the reader into a debut fantasy of the quest kind. What and who are they? Hippaxas serve as the mounts for an elite corps of the army, while the Two play the role of god and goddess in Dennis Jones' remarkably well-crafted world.  

Twice-born Erkai the Chain, an extremely evil sorcerer, leads a seemingly invincible army of Tathar barbarians on a bloody rampage across the Ascendancy. Only the Signata can stop the relentless march of Erkai's forces to domination. But no one has seen the Signata in over 700 years. No one even knows what the Signata looks like or what it does. 

The Two visit Mandine Dascaris, heir to the Ascendancy, in a dream and tell her to "seek the place that holds all places, and the moment that holds all moments." They also promise her a companion to aid her in her search. When Key Mee Brander, hippaxas rider and outlander, saves her from the Tathar barbarians, Mandine recognizes him as her quest companion.  

Two heads might be better than one, but the partnership of Mandine and Key doesn't guarantee success. Henchmen of Mandine's half-mad sister Theatana, who killed Mandine's father and usurped his throne, dog every step of the Signata quest. And as if that wasn't enough, Erkai, who is in league with the Two's ancient Adversary, sets a squad of barbarians on Mandine and Key's trail. 

The Stone and the Maiden offers innovative creations, a nice heroine and hero, and a suitably evil protagonist. But except for the hero and heroine, Jones fails to give his characters any great depth. Events that came perilously close to interventions and rescues by "deus ex machina" also marred the quest for me. I would have preferred more action, independence and initiative by the hero and heroine and a little less "niceness." That said, the book intrigued me enough to keep me reading to the end. 

Patricia White 

Patricia White is the Sapphire Award-winning author of A Wizard Scorned. Her current book, the western Edwina Parkhurst, Spinster, is available from Hard Shell Word Factory.

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