The Barnes & Noble Review
Madeline Howard's debut novel is nothing short of spectacular! With the poetic grace of an Ursula K. Le Guin tale and the ambitious scope of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time sequence, The Hidden Stars has it all: fully realized characters, nonstop adventure, an epic quest, and a marvel-laden realm to rival Tolkien's Middle-earth.
The novel is set in a world irrevocably altered centuries earlier by a savage war between wizards and mages that ended in their mutual destruction. Now the Empress Ouriána rules an ever-expanding empire with dark sorcery, cunning, and fear. A self-proclaimed goddess, Ouriána has a simple objective: to rule the world and remake it in her image. With a group of 12 powerful Furiádhin priests -- nightmarish sorcerers mutated through magic -- leading her armies, her diabolical dream is coming to fruition.
But somewhere in the world, hidden away from Ouriána's reach, is a young girl, a singular child of prophecy, destined to put an end to Ouriána's tyrannical rule -- if she can stay alive long enough to do it. As kingdom after kingdom fall to Ouriána's armies, a band of heroic adventurers sets out to find the girl before it's too late.
Not unlike Le Guin's Earthsea saga, The Hidden Stars -- the first book in Howard's Rune of Unmaking trilogy -- is a lyrical and delightfully engaging tale that can be enjoyed by adults and young adults alike. Readers with anger management issues, however, should be prepared for an abrupt cliff-hanger ending that will leave them impatiently awaiting the next installment. Paul Goat Allen
Anyone willing to endure names like Eireamhoine and Baillebachlein will find that a pronunciation guide and a map are about all that's missing from Howard's solid first novel. Classical fantasy elements, such as the eternal war between Light and Dark and the royal-born savior adopted by ignorant strangers, share space with a surprisingly original setting and story. Nineteen years earlier, Master Wizard Eireamhoine spirited a baby princess away at the cost of his life. Now the harsh Empress Ouriana, a self-proclaimed dark goddess, thinks she has found the girl and sends her monstrous priests to destroy her. The healer Sinderian, the wizard Faolein and the half-fey Prince Ruan travel north, where the young woman's family is battling Ouri na's malevolent forces for control of the land, to learn whether she is indeed the long-lost princess, the only one who can destroy the empress. Some readers may be put off by the simplicity-the kings are always wise, the wizards are always clever and the protagonists always survive-but bloody warfare, intricate magic and deft portraits of characters and culture provide some sparkle and keep things moving. With its strong (and not overly sexualized) female characters, the series should particularly appeal to anyone wanting a feminist alternative to the current crop of genre sagas. Agent, Elizabeth Pomada. (Oct. 12) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A century after the great war between wizards and mages destroyed both factions of magic wielders, the Empress Ouri na uses her sorcerous powers to rule the land. Now, a child is born whose destiny portends the downfall of the tyrant queen-if she lives long enough to fulfill it. Howard's debut features all the salient points of a gripping fantasy epic: a wicked queen, a hidden child, and the determination of a band of warriors and healers to put an end to the forces of evil. This series opener is a good addition to most fantasy collections. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.