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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hart's Hope

***** Hart's Hope by Orson Scott Card. Fantasy.

I got this one years ago at the flea market--in other words, before I'd read Ender's Game (#42).

Burland's king Nasilee's reign is destroying the country, so Palicroval is urged to overthrow him for the good of the country.

He defeats Nasilee. Then, to solidify his position, he takes Nasilee's young daughter Asineth as a bride, publicly consummating the marriage (rape, in other words) so there's no doubt. He can't, however, bring himself to kill her, though his advisors all agree he should. Instead, he sends her away with the wizard Sleeve, and turns to Enziquelvinisensee Evelvenin, the most beautiful woman in the world, whose hand he'd won before his quest.

Asineth, bitter and bent on revenge, is pregnant with Palicroval's child, which ends up being a 10-month baby--magically significant. She sacrifices the child and uses it to become Queen Beauty, turning Sleeve into a court jester and taking Enziquelvinisensee Evelvenin's appearance for herself, turning the real Enziquelvinisensee Evelvenin into a hag.

She returns to the capital and takes over, allowing Palicroval to go anywhere in the land but the capital. She magically watches him and torments him for her amusement.

Finally, the gods take a hand and cause Palicroval to father a child, Orem, whose task, though he's unaware of it, is to set things right.

This is a rather unusually written story--told as an epistle to Palicroval, with the epistle-writer's commentary and advice along with the narrative. It took me a while to get used to the style, but once I did, it added to the feel of the story. It's distant--the omniscient POV doesn't allow the reader deeply into any of the characters' thoughts or emotions--but the story is epic in scale, spanning centuries and involving gods and the fate of a nation; and it's a morality tale as well, so the style fits the story.

The action is gritty, from the rape to the torments Queen Beauty visits on Palicroval, to the events Orem endures on his unknowing quest. Nothing is sugar-coated or coyly avoided, and that too serves the story, showing how even good intentions can result in evil and victims become villains.

And it shows the dangers of attracting the attention of the gods. Isn't there a famous saying about that? Or perhaps its just a truism. The gods' intervention led to the changing fortunes of Palicroval, and the existence and eventual fate of Orem.

It's not that much of a spoiler to say that the ending is open-ended. That, too, serves the story, giving a reason for the epistle to Palicroval.

I'll be re-reading this one more than once, I'm sure.


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I need to reread this one -- it may be the one to get me to reread some Card, after the disappointment that is Lovelock (not the novel itself, which I enjoyed tremendously, but the fact that there's been NO MOVEMENT towards another book in the series to wrap up some of the loose ends).
This is only the second book I've read by OSC--I resisted for a very long time. I wish I knew why I'd resisted. But I've got one or two in my TBR pile, and I'll be getting more. Maybe by the time I catch up, there'll be some resolution, and I won't be as frustrated! (the good side to coming to an author late in the game)
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