C.L. Talmadge,
Green Stone of Healing #1: The Vision
(Quiet Storm, 2005)

This is the first book of a fantasy series, the Green Stone of Healing books, set in the fictional land of Kronos. The protagonist is Helen, a military physician who is of mixed racial background in a land where prejudice against "half-breeds" runs rampant, especially in the military and feudal government.

Helen is a highly gifted healer with a mysterious past. Who is her father? Where is her mother, if she still lives? Is there more to Helen's talent than standard skills and knowledge? Are those possible extra abilities related to her racial background? Does the state-sponsored religion of this nation have an ulterior motive in its ardent opposition to mixed marriages and its open advocacy of segregation and discrimination? What are the potential consequences? The answers to these questions gradually appear and rock the politics, religion and society of this island nation.

The strengths of this book are many and varied. The writing is crisp, clear and fast-paced, creating a real page-turner. The characters are definitely well-developed and three-dimensional. Helen is a fascinating protagonist, with many admirable traits, lots of edginess and a distinct voice. I would not be surprised if Helen is a composite of many people whom the author knows and about whom C.L. Talmadge cares. She certainly ends up being credible and someone whom I would like to know. Several supporting characters are almost as strong, giving the book a good ensemble cast instead of one central character surrounded by sidekicks and enemies.

The story is also replete with complexities, including religious oppression, racism, political intrigue, attempted murder, kidnapping and complex interpersonal relationships. Then, of course, there is the oft-alluded-to possible supernatural aspects of Helen's healing skills and talents.

Underlying all of this there is the hinted-at possibility that this world and its culture are the surviving remnants of our world after some form of cataclysm. This is not clearly stated, but there are enough clues to leave the reader guessing.

However, there also a few weaknesses in this book. The point of view switched too often for me, and too abruptly, including instances of omniscient point of view that I find distracting and unnecessary. Also, some of the violence, especially the sadism, seems overdone at times, leaving me thinking, "Why go that far? The point of his (or her) cruelty was already made."

One other point is more a matter of personal taste. Some of the supernatural aspects sound a bit too new-agey and love-is-all-you-need in the way they are described. There is nothing wrong with that view, but it is a slight mismatch with the protagonist's endearing bluntness and other rough edges, that give her credibility, humanity, dimensionality and depth.

I have the next two books in the series, Fallout and The Scorpions Strike. I am definitely looking forward to what comes next in this tale, which has some of the complexity and magic of George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice & Fire series.

review by
Chris McCallister

7 November 2009

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