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The Sword of Maiden's Tears

by Rosemary Edghill

paperback edition

The Sword of Maiden's Tears by Rosemary Edghill is Yet Another Urban Elf Story. It sports an atrocious cover illustration and silly blurbs. So why did I buy it? Because "Rosemary Edghill" is a pseudonym for Eluki bes Shahar, who wrote the clever, fast-paced sf Hellflower trilogy.

Rohannon Melior, an elf of the House of Silver Silences, arrives in New York City just as he regains the Sword of Maiden's Tears, and a friendly native promptly mugs him and runs off with his sword. Ruth Marlowe, a librarian-in-training who's bored with her life, picks him up, dusts him off, and takes him home. Rohannon proceeds to enlist the help of Ruth and her circle of friends in finding and recovering the sword, which will transform any human who touches it into a slavering cannibalistic monster. Any habitual fantasy reader can probably fill in the rest of the plot from here.

The premise is cliche, the plot drags, and the conclusion is depressing and very unsatisfying. But the writing is witty and peppered with literary allusions, and the characterization of Ruth and her friends is complex and intriguing. The characters have lives and histories that extend beyond the immediate story, and their interplay and banter are what kept me reading along happily.

I hope the sequel will redeem the disappointing ending of this book. And there will be a sequel; the characters say so on the last page. (The caption "The First Book of The Twelve Treasures" on the title page was sort of a giveaway, too.)

If you can stomach another Urban Elf book, I recommend The Sword of Maiden's Tears. If you can't, try the Hellflower trilogy.

Sensible Ruth was out walking in the rain. Today was her birthday, and Ruth was thirty. Thirty. All alone, and on the threshold of the rest of her entire life, which would be spent solitary, virginal, and depressed in some miniscule upstate New York library where the book was on view between the hours of three and three-fifteen every other Wednesday.

Such a depressing future called for ice cream at the very least, and there was a Haagen-Dazs shop on Broadway.

-- Christina Schulman.
Reviewed in
November 1994

paperback edition
Publisher: DAW
Date: October 1994
ISBN: 0-88677-622-8
Binding: paperback
Pages: 284
Price: US $4.99

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Sep 2001 / CMS