Amy Thomson,
(Ace, 2003)

Amy Thomson weaves a wonderful tale herself in Storyteller, combining science-fiction and fantasy, human dilemmas and animal telepathic interaction. We meet Samad, a 6-year-old orphaned runaway, street-wise but starving. He is drawn to listen to the Storyteller, an old woman simply known as Teller, who travels all over the planet of Thalassa telling stories of history, fable and morals, entrancing her audiences with her vocal skills.

Teller saves the little thief from official punishment, and he is honour-bound to serve her. The meeting has a profound effect on both of them, and though neither was looking for company or family, Teller eventually adopts Samad after her long-time companion persuades her that it is the right thing to do for both the child and old woman. Teller's companion is a Harsel, an enormous sea-dwelling mammal with whom she travels the oceans. They share a telepathic bond, and when Samad encounters Abeha, he is startled to discover that he can communicate with him. And so there are three: woman, boy and beast. This deeply bonded relationship sees Samad develop a prodigious skill as a Storyteller and grow into adulthood torn between desires of his own and a growing appreciation of the complexity of the work of Teller, which he will one day be expected to continue.

To say more would be to expose the heart of the plot and ruin the fascinating story that runs, with twists and turns and intricate convolutions, throughout the book. Amy Thomson is set fair to rival the enviable bond of Anne McCaffrey's Dragons of Pern series with her intelligent, humorous and versatile Harsels. Her original concept is quite intriguing, and I can only hope she may write another tale or two involving these magnificent animals.

The human characters of Teller and Samad are presented in increasing depth, and the growing bond of love and dependency between the child and woman is realistically documented. There is joy and immense sadness in the story. I found myself in tears more than once, such is the power of the writing, so ensnared is the reader in the lives of the three main characters. Storyteller is a complete tale, and it was with exuberance and also desolation I reached the end, delighted to realise the conclusion, sorry the story had come to an end. I will definitely be seeking out Thomson's other novels, Through Alien Eyes, The Color of Distance and Virtual Girl -- if they are as absorbing and entertaining as Storyteller, I will be well pleased.

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 20 March 2004

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