Dawn Cook,
Hidden Truth
(Ace, 2002)

In Hidden Truth, Dawn Cook picks up the story not long after the previous book, First Truth, ends.

Bailic, would-be Master of the Hold, is in possession of the special book Alissa, daughter of a former Keeper, claims as her own. Bailic also mistakenly assumes that Strell, the minstrel traveling with Alissa, is the latent Keeper. Strell now must spend every morning under Bailic's tutelage until he develops enough skill to unlock and open the book.

Since Strell has no talent for magic, latent or otherwise, Alissa has been helping out, creating the illusion that Strell is making slow progress. Her own skills are sharpened and honed through sessions held in the dead of the wintry night with the master known as Talo-Toecan, whom Alissa calls Useless.

Bailic's plan, once the book is opened, is to raise the dead of the city of Ese' Nawoer, cursed spirits he intends to send to disrupt the strained balance between the people of the plains and the farmers in the foothills, provoking war and self destruction. Not only do Alissa and Strell worry about what Bailic will do if he can't opened the book, they dread what will happen if he can. Aided by Talo-Toecan and Lodesh, the revenant Warden of Ese' Nawoer, Alissa and Strell still have surprises in store for Bailic -- and themselves.

The book is every bit as good as the first title, and Cook is very skillful at weaving in sufficient backstory. The characters are very appealing and even Bailic evokes a degree of sympathy for the upbringing the twisted him and set him on his path. Best of all is Alissa, whose faults and foibles make her particularly endearing.

There is no indication whether Hidden Truth is the second book in a duology or a trilogy or even a longer series. It seems complete on its own, yet there are possibilities for continuing the story. Either way, I look forward to reading more from the imagination and pen of Dawn Cook.

- Rambles
written by Donna Scanlon
published 26 July 2003

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