Jude Fisher,
Sorcery Rising
(DAW, 2002)

The northern country of Eyra and the southern country of Istria have long been mortal enemies, but they have been at peace for a generation. Once a year, the countries set aside their differences for the Allfair, a trading extravaganza held on the Moonfell Plain, which, though inside the bounds of Istria, is considered neutral territory. Rising from the Moonfell Plain is a mountain that both countries consider sacred. To the Eyrans, it is Sur's Castle, the place where their god Sur first came to the world of Elda. But the Istrians claim that it is Falla's Rock, the holiest place of their fire goddess Falla, and to set foot on the Rock carries grave penalties.

This year is Katla Aransen's first year at the Allfair. An Eyran forger of fine swords and knives, she has an affinity with rocks and ores. When she sets eyes on Sur's Castle, her fingers itch to scale its sides, and she does not resist the urge. Caught by two Istrian elders atop their sacred rock, Katla does not at first realize that the penalty for a woman to touch Falla's Rock is death by burning. And though she slips easily away from the elders, Katla must spend the rest of the Allfair in virtual hiding.

But it is not just the elders who observe Katla atop the Rock. A young Istrian by the name of Saro Vingo sees her also, standing proudly and defiantly, with her hair whipping in the breeze. But Saro has no thoughts of punishment. Istrian women are kept veiled, and he is fascinated by the sight of this strong, bare-faced woman.

Also at the Allfair are the Footloose, who travel Elda in their caravans, peddling their services and love charms. Traveling with them is a strange, pale man and a stranger woman. Any man who catches sight of her wants her instantly and totally, to the exclusion of all else. When Katla's father buys a map from the pale man, a chain of events is set in motion that leads straight to disaster.

Sorcery Rising is the first book of Fool's Gold, a new series by Jude Fisher. The book takes place almost entirely within the setting of the Allfair, for it is the events that occur at the fair that will shape the rest of series. Switching back and forth between a very large ensemble cast of characters, Fisher shows how even the smallest event can have large repercussions.

Interestingly, it is the women who seem to drive the actions of the men, even though their roles in both Istrian and Eyran society are somewhat limited. Katla Aransen is a master blade-maker; her weapons are reknowned throughout Elda (though apparently the Istrians don't realize that their forger is a woman). And her decision to climb Falla's Rock has terrible consequences for her and, ultimately, for the peace between Eyrans and Istrians. Selen Issian, the daughter of an Istrian lord, chooses to paint her lips outrageously when faced with the husband-to-be that she does not want. How could she guess that the consequences would lead to Katla Aransen's condemnation to the stake? And then there is the Rosa Eldi, the enigmatic, pale woman traveling with the map seller. When the King of Eyra's eye lights on her, all hell breaks loose.

Sorcery Rising is intense and a definite page-turner. (I read the second half of the book in one evening.) I hope the sequel appears soon!

- Rambles
written by Laurie Thayer
published 25 January 2003

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