Nepenthe, an orphan, was raised by the palace scholars and at sixteen is now a gifted translator. The young queen of Raine, Tessera, has just assumed the throne when Nepenthe goes with a friend to pick up a book from the mages' Floating School. The mages want the book to be translated. When some illusions frighten her friend away from the school, Nepenthe takes the book. It seems to speak to her heart, so she decides to translate it herself, instead of giving it to one of the senior translators. Slowly she begins to decipher it's strange thorn like alphabet. It begins to tell the true story of the legendary ruler Axis and his mysterious mage, Kane. Translating the book becomes a secret obsession for Nepenthe.
Meanwhile, the ancient mage, Vevay, is disturbed. She is trying to guide the new queen of Raine. She senses trouble, but cannot put a pattern to it. Then she has a vision of the first king of Raine, awakening. Legend says he sleeps until he is needed to defend his realm again. This confirms her fears that trouble is brewing. She is afraid that one of the dukes is plotting to take the throne from Tessera. However the real threat is much more dangerous than an ambitious duke. Little does she realize, Nepenthe is entertwined with the danger that threatens Raine, and the choices she makes will change the course of her world.
This report prepared by Michelle
Ace, Feb 2004, 22.95, 320 pp.
The King of the Twelve Crowns of Raine is dead and his fourteen year old daughter Tessera is crowned Queen on Dreamer's Plain. She is woefully unprepared for her office since most thought she has years to train to be a good leader. Already the second crown led by Ermin of Sealton is plotting to overthrow the queen as his nephew Bourne is placed in the Floating School of Macie to learn how to be a weapon for his uncle in the coming battle.
Bourne is not interested in power or being the nephew of a high king. His interest is in Nepenthe, a scribe in the huge library in the castle. She is an orphan who was taken in by the Librarians and grew to love books and knowledge. She is currently interested in the ALPHABET OF THORNS a work about an Emperor who lived three millennia ago and the sorcerer Kane who loved him. Little does Nepenthe know that she is the bridge between past and present and the future of the world rests on her shoulders.
Patricia A. McKillip always writes about worlds of wonders and magical adult fairy tales that have a universal appeal with their happily ever after endings. ALPHABET OF THORN is an exceptional work of fantasy with vulnerable heroines, dashing heroes and a villain that is all too believable in his quest for power. The land of Raine is a wondrous place, one this reviewer would love to visit (only if Bourne is borne away).
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner