Lawrence Barker,
Mother Feral's Love
(Swimming Kangaroo, 2006)

I saw her face in my mind's eye, a face meant to disturb my psyche. Her name was Evrandal, a woman born a feral with physical characteristics consisting of nocturnal eyes, a stretchable body capable of turning to gel, jaw muscles strong enough to break bones and an uncontrollable urge to eat decaying human flesh.

Yes, she definitely looked different from the other women of Vrantum, but miraculously she gave birth to a normal child -- a child she kept a secret by letting her friend Damel raise so she could have a decent life. From a distance she got a chance to see her daughter grow, but never approached her. Evrandal was an outcast and she did what outcasts do: she kept a low profile.

Watching Broglin from a distance was tough on her; she longed to tell her the truth but knew it would be a big mistake. But then Damel ends up being accused of murdering an alchemist named Fernandus. Evrandal knows she's innocent but has only four days to clear her name. If she doesn't Damel will be hanged and her daughter Broglin will be sold into slavery.

Evrandal visits Fernandus's house in search of evidence. The scent of an herb left at the scene of the crime leads Evrandal to a town called Tuscum, where the herbalist Wormug tells her the person who purchased the herb had joint pain -- and he kept records of the sale by having the buyer leave a thumbprint on a dried clay tablet.

With very little time left to prove Damel's innocence, Evrandal is subjected to conditions and circumstances that would make the weak back off. She narrowly escapes being raped, has to kill Grahh in self-defense, is beaten and deceived. Quite by accident she comes face to face with her daughter's father Shadi, a falsepath who doesn't even recognize her. She never gets a chance to enlighten him about the gray cloud hovering over their daughter's head; just as she begins to tell him what she knows so he can help free Damel and Broglin, a war breaks out between the keeppeaces of Vrantum and Shadi's falsepaths.

Things get worse for Evrandal from there. There is so much chaos and confusion as this story unravels. And, when the fourth day approaches, Evrandal is backed against the walls of justice and ends up with her own life added to the list with Damel's.

Lawrence Barker did excellent work on this book, which is interesting and filled with surprises. When I first started reading it, I kept balking because I couldn't keep the names of the characters straight in my head, but as the story progressed I came to know them like the back of my hand. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who wishes to break away from predictable reading.

review by
Renee Harmon

29 March 2008

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