The Golden Key (1996)
At 889 pages, The Golden Key is a very long book. Admittedly, I have not had a lot of time for reading, but even so, more than a week for me to read a book is really slow. Part of the reason is that the first third of the book was slow going. There are a good number of foreign words sprinkled through the story, and I didn’t find the glossary until I was nearly finished. As much as I hate flipping back a forth, checking the glossary from the start would have this book far easier to read. Well, that and a better knowledge of Latin/Spanish.
The book is set in three general time periods, 943 to 950, 1262 to 1286, and 1315 to 1316, and follows two families. The do'Verradas are the ruling family in Tira Virte and the Grijalvas are an extended family of painters, struggling to regain influence, despite the taint of their blood.
Unsurprisingly, from Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson and Kate Elliot, come three strong female characters for the three time-lines: Saavedra, Mechella, and Eleyna. All things considered, I think I like Saavedra the best, although that may just be because she had things the hardest, which is interesting, because I had the most trouble with her part of the story.
I very much like how each woman takes the power available to her, and uses it to the best of her ability. I love strong female characters, whether they're swordswomen or using feminine wiles.
However, what I like the absolute most about this book is the cover. I love the cover. It's nearly perfect. The painting of Saavedra is precisely as described in the book--I wish it was more prominent. The only thing part of the cover that was not as described in the book was the painting that Sario seems to be working on. That painting seems to be a compilation of ideas, none of which are quite accurate with the story. But aside from that, the color and the pictures and the clothing--it all is nearly precisely as described, which is not just perfect, but also amazing. I've found it rare for a cover to get so many elements of a book just right.
Make sure that you pay attention to the Pientraddos Historricos part at the very beginning. Although it is describing various paintings, it is also relating the history and background to the start of the story.
One thing I would have appreciated was a who's who in addition to the glossary. I kept forgetting the names of Mechella's children, and which Grijalva was sibling to which, all of which made for a lot of flipping back and forth through the book, because in nearly 900 pages, it was hard to keep track of everyone.
A major negative is the book as an object. Although the pages are not falling out, several of them were cut badly, or were crooked, which made reading the book rather difficult in places. That and the fact that it had the smeary ink that got all over my hands if I wasn't careful. Of course one would hope that new printings might not suffer from those problems, but you might want to check anyway.
And one thing that annoyed me. I don't see why Eleyna's infertility couldn't have been solved in the same way that Grand Duke Renayo's "problem" was solved. I think that the authors just didn't want to solve that problem, because the solution seemed obvious to me.
All in all, this is a pretty good book. The characters are compelling and interesting, and the story--once it got going--is excellent. It's slow in the beginning, but picks up, especially in the second and third portions of the book. And although the story is good, it was full of intrigue and politics, so it was relatively easy to put down at night so I could go to bed, which was a good thing.
Warrior Enchantresses (1996) edited by Martin H. Greenberg & Kathleen M. Massie-Ferch
Introduction - Kathleen M. Massie-Ferch
The World Well Lost - Tanith Lee
Auãour the Deepminded - Andre Norton
Of the Deaths of Kings - Melanie Rawn
The Warrior and the Dragon's Son - Josepha Sherman
Earthen Mound - Diana L. Paxson
The Ginseng Potion - William F. Wu
The Mist of Melusine - Rosemary Hawley Jarman
Published by DAW
To Light Such A Candle - eluki bes shahar
The Grail of Heart's Desire - Judith Tarr
Lady of Avalon - Diana L. Paxson
With God to Guard Her - Kate Elliot
Sing To Me Of Love and Shadows - Deborah Wheeler
The Wellspring - Katherine Kerr
Knives - Dave Smeds
A Refuge of Firedrakes - Susan Shwartz
The Hag - Lawrence Schimel
Salve, Regina - Melanie Rawn
Trees of Avalon - Elisabeth Waters
Sparrow - Esther Friesner
The Spell Between Worlds - Karen Haber
The Stone Mother's Curse - Dave Wolverton
Iontioren's Tale - Paul Edwin Zimmer
Winter Tales - Adrienne Martine-Barnes
Dark Lady - Jane M. Linskold
The Lily Maid of Astoloat - Laura Resnick
Guinevere's Truth - Jennifer Roberson
Published by DAW
Give a Man a Horse He Can Ride - Esther Friesner
Kid Binary and the Two-Big Gang - Michael A. Stackpole
The Moonlight Flit - Rosemary Edghill
The Bandido of Pozoseco - Kate Daniel
We Met Upon The Road - Jane Emerson
Where Angels Fear to Tread - Laura Anne Gilman
Diana's Foresters - Susan Shwartz
Fool's Gold - Doranna Durgin
Highwayscape with Gods - Lawrence Schimel
The Bishop's Coffer - Janny Wurts
The Abbot of Croxton - Melanie Rawn
Published by DAW