Orson Scott Card,
Heartfire
(Tor, 1998)

Heartfire continues the ongoing saga of the Alvin Maker series (Seventh Son, Red Prophet, Prentice Alvin, Alvin Journeyman), a colonial American fantasy of unsurpassed hilarity and quality.

The colonial America of Card's series is one remarkably different than the one we know of by history and legend, yet it is not so different that certain famous figures (among them Mike Fink, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and John James Audubon -- who appears as a wonderfully hilarious Frenchman) allow the book to sparkle with its own blend of history and fantasy.

Alvin Maker and his followers are attempting to understand the vision of the Crystal City he must build. They travel to New England, where people with "knacks" (dowsers, those with second sight and torches -- those who can see into the heart of any man) are burned as witches. It doesn't take them very long to get into trouble.

Margaret (or Peggy), Alvin's wife and a torch of no small powers, goes to Camelot and the court of the exiled King, Arthur Stuart, to try and stop the start of a bloody slave rebellion she has seen in the path of nearly every imagined future. The slaves of Camelot have their heartfires (almost their souls) taken by an old black man, Gullah Joe, and Calvin, Alvin's brother and a man consumed by hatred and jealousy, plots to start the war and earn his brother's respect through blood and not honor.

Alvin has to outwit the witchfinders. Peggy has to find out how the slave's heartfires are quenched, and what would happen if they regained their anger and hatred once again. And Calvin has to make a choice when he's trapped in the same web the slaves' heartfires are trapped in. That choice almost costs him his life.

All in all, the fifth book in the Alvin Maker series exceeded all my expectations and left me waiting for more. The only problem I had with it was the ease at which Alvin conquers all problems and predicaments in the story. Will his burgeoning powers sink the series or will Card be able to come up with something even Alvin Maker has trouble overcoming?

[ by Jennifer St. Clair ]

Buy Heartfire from Amazon.com.