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Two moon gifSt. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover), ISBN 0-312-20939-8
Quick, ladies, name three male authors who can write convincingly from a woman's viewpoint. Gentlemen, feel free to vote all you wish, but your votes won't be counted for this unofficial poll. 

Book: Peter Tremayne, Valley of the ShadowStumped? Me, too. And Peter Tremayne with his emotionless, sexless Sister Fidelma certainly doesn't deserve a place in the list. In fact, the viewpoint in Valley of the Shadow wanders erratically between the Irish nun, her besotted Saxon priest sidekick, secondary characters and even the random goat on the hillside, making it nigh unto impossible to develop a bond with any of them. Except, maybe, the goat. 

In A.D. 666 -- pun intended, no doubt -- Fidelma travels to the secluded Gleann Geis at her brother the king's bequest to negotiate the establishment of a Christian church in this notorious Druidic and vigorously anti-Christian stronghold. Near the end of the journey, she and her companion discover the grisly remains of 33 monks, slaughtered identically and arranged in a circle like points on a sundial. The whys and wherefores of this ritualistic murder, interpreted as a particularly nasty "Christian, go home" statement, consume Fidelma's energies for the remainder of the book. 

Book: Peter Tremayne, Hemlock at VespersNever mind the fact that the deeply spiritual Celts embraced Christianity because its evangelists, like Patrick and Columba, cleverly assimilated the tenets of older religions rather than coming into conflict with them. Never mind the fact that, by the 7th century, Druidic philosophy lived only in folk memory, as in the phrase "knock on wood" and the practice of kissing under mistletoe. Despite heavy reliance upon these common misconceptions, Valley of the Shadow promises an exciting setup but delivers a frightfully boring resolution. 

Sorry, Fidelma fans, but any novel wherein the major plot point in the first half of the book is the sidekick's hangover holds no interest for me. By the time anything serious befalls Our Heroes (about two-thirds of the way into the story) I ceased to care about their fates. I do give Tremayne a point for not falling into the "all Christians are evil, all non-Christians are good" trap, or its converse -- although this book does contain a few irritating religious caricatures.  

In case you simply must rush out and buy this one to complete your set, I won't divulge any spoilers. But I do strongly advise that you save your hard-won cash and wait for the inevitable paperback release. 

Kim D. Headlee 

Kim D. Headlee is the author of Dawnflight, a novel about the legend of Guinevere garnering rave reviews and award nominations from romance and fantasy venues alike.

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Readers Respond:

I'm interested enough in [Kim Headlee's] review to buy her book on Guinnevere. But her assessment of Fidelma is a portrayal of her ignorance of all types of womanhood. She expects Fidelma to be "sexy" to be real or interesting. She should bone up on Jean Bolen's explanation of the seven different expressions of womanhood. The Athena type is typically misunderstood and disregarded, as Headlee does Fidelma and her intelligence. Or she could turn to the enneagram and study the Four. Best yet, she should look at Myers-Briggs in Gifts Differing and read up on the frequently maligned intelligent and interesting female: the INTP...less than one percent of the population, but necessary and fascinating. Being one myself, I love Peter Tremayne's portrayal of a capable, intelligent, strong and therefore feminine character. Too bad Headlee can't understand the type of romance that is brewing between the characters...but it's there. And appreciated by us women who have waited a long time to have OUR type of feminine portrayed and appreciated BY A MAN, as our men do truly appreciate us!

Carol Dijk