Waterdance by Anne Logston
(Ace, $6.50) ISBN 0-441-00613-2
***
In Waterdance, Anne Logston has written the romantic story of an impetuous girl catapulted into a run for her life with a man who should be her enemy.

Perian is the daughter of Kayli, the heroine of Logston's Firewalk. She's the product of both the Agrondish and the Bregondish cultures and the inheritor of a weak water and healing magic quite unlike her mother's powerful fire magic. However, as the ability to dowse water is valuable in an arid land, even this small amount of magic places Peri as heir to her unmarried aunt, the ruler of Bregond.

Peri would much rather live life as a warrior in the nomadic Bregondish tribes, and her greatest dream is to design and execute a new sword fighting dance that seems to be just beyond her reach, the waterdance qiva.

As the story begins, Peri is on her way to her new life in Bregond. Her inevitable fate seems depressingly close so she relishes the freedom of her last journey over the plains to Bregond. She charms her uncle into letting her hunt and scout ahead. The sight of scavenging birds leads her to a group of Sarkond soldiers who have crossed the border into Bregond and apparently taken a captive. Since the Sarkonds are Agrond and Bregond's mortal enemies, Peri feels she has no choice but to attempt the rescue of the Bregond man they must have captured.

Peri succeeds in her rescue, but is horrified that the man she saved is actually a Sarkond man himself, although he proclaims himself a heretic mage under a death sentence. In order to effect their escape from their Sarkond hunters, Peri and Atheris cross over into Sarkond. In enemy territory, Peri is forced to rely on her wits and on Atheris to get her safely back home. Considering that she is the daughter of the rulers of Agrond and the heir-to-be of the ruler of Bregond, it is imperative that she elude capture. Unfortunately, there seems to be a destiny at work which keeps sending her deeper and deeper into the heart of Sarkond.

And then there is Atheris himself. Peri is reluctantly falling in love with a man she should hate, or at the very least mistrust. He is a man of many mysteries; he is from a different culture practicing magic differently, and he is her people's enemy. But during her life on the run, Peri follows her heart and makes observations with her own eyes, and comes to reevaluate her life-long notions of the Sarkonds as demonic enemies. There is adventure and romance as Peri and Atheris elude their pursuers and fight off many magical and physical attacks, all leading to a climax at a temple where a water god is destined to wake.

The plot of Waterdance was very interesting, and I'm always in favor of romantic fantasy. But the novel didn't really tackle some issues of the gray areas of character (especially Atheris') convincingly enough to make this a satisfying read. He has made some ugly mistakes in his past. And in fact, towards the end of the book, Perian thinks to herself that she "didn't know which sickened her more what he had done, or her realization that despite everything that had happened, she could not manage to hate him for it." This was a conflict I'd like to have seen explored further.

However, this book was better than Firewalk so I can only think that Anne Logston is a steadily improving author.

--Preeti Singh


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