Diana Pharaoh Francis,
Path of Fate
(Roc, 2003)

Reisil, the main character of Path of Fate, was abandoned by her parents when she was an infant and suffers a constant feeling of estrangement -- until she discovers her talent for healing. Then, just as she feels accepted and secure, she is chosen by the Blessed Lady to become "ahalad-kaaslane," one of her elite band of judges, soldiers, spies and explorers who travel the land, bound to the Lady and the special animal who mind-bonds with them.

The book begins a little slowly, and I had the early misconception of feeling that the author had based her story on the same concept as Anne McCaffrey's Dragons of Pern and their mind-bonded dragonriders, but this feeling soon faded as I became engrossed in this new take on the bonding of human and animal. Reisil is a wonderfully courageous heroine, and her initial reluctance to accept her appointed role and her rejection of Saljane, the equally courageous goshawk who needs to bond with her, is well written.

The book holds the reader in a magical suspense, and just as one thinks a peak has been reached and a turning point must surely follow, the author provides yet another nail-biting, breath-holding passage to keep the reader enthralled, blending intrigue and politics, horror, beauty and magic, religion, war and rich characters and richly descriptive prose.

Diana Pharaoh Francis has written a stunning debut book, and I hope she won't be long in producing an equally compelling second novel.

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 5 June 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.