Tor, Feb 2004, 24.95, 320 pp.
The orphan Laris is held in servitude bondage by Dedran the Circus Master until she attains the credits to pay for her freedom. Though Laris loves the animals that she cares for, she equally loathes the avaricious Dedran, who is nasty and abusive to everyone. As she tours from planet to planet on The Queen of the Circus vessel, Laris and the big alien feline Prauo forge a telepathic bond that she hides from her master for fear of the consequences.
As the troupe heads towards Arzor, Laris learns that Dedran plans to help his fellow Thieves Guild members steal and clone special animals. At Arzor, Laris befriends several Beast Masters on the planet, but hides her skill to communicate with her big cat that she shares in common with her new pals for fear that Dedran will harm them. Still if she is to stop Dedran and the Thieves Guild from their odious scheme of harming beasts, she needs allies beyond just the few “malcontents” that journey with her as part of the circus.
The latest Beast Master tale is targeted towards a young teen audience as the story line is simplistic in its good vs. evil scenario, the mystery of who is Laris seems obvious, and the action somewhat limited. Still the support cast adds depth to the ultimate High Noon confrontation starring a delightful young lady in a non-earth setting accompanied by some comic relief that should please the Potter crowd and perhaps those even younger. Anyone a bit older will pass.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner