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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rifkind's Challenge by Lynn Abbey

Rifkind's Challenge by Lynn Abbey. New York: Tor, 2006. ISBN: 978-0-765-31346-1

The entire time I was reading Rifkind's Challenge, it seemed obvious that this couldn't possibly be the first Rifkind book. That's because almost from the beginning, there are echoes of previous deeds, a reputation from before, a traveling back into other lands where Rifkind has had previous experiences.

But you certainly couldn't tell from the front matter in the book itself. There is no listing of any other Rifkind titles. It's annoying the way publishers behave, only listing other Lynn Abbey books, if they are also published under the Tor imprint. So I had to use the ubiquitous Internet to find Abbey's website to learn that there are indeed, two previous Rifkind books, albeit from many years ago, titled Daughter of the Bright Moon (1979) and The Black Flame (1980), both now out of print.

Rifkind is the name of a woman who has special powers as a healer, and perhaps as a devotee of the goddess of the Bright Moon. She is also a master of swordcraft and fighting. Now she's leaving her home of many years among the tribes of the plain, along with the son of the chieftain, and her own son, both grown, and striking out for a new life on their own.

Her own son, Cho, is estranged from her. He feels abandoned, emotionally, and mostly resentful. Resentful that his mother has never spared him any time, attention, or training. She's left him to be raised by the tribal chieftain, as a trusted companion and friend to the chief's son Tyrokon.

And yet the chief's son cannot inherit, because he is partially lame. Rifkind has been working to heal him since he was an infant, but she has only been able to bring him along so far. So now he plans to seek another way of life, to become a caravaner. Rifkind goes along to see him settled, but she is feeling the pull of other lands, other pasts. When the caravaner career turns out to be a false lead, a trap or trick of some kind, the boys decide to follow her.

Adventures ensue. This is a well-written, eminently readable swords and sorcery kind of story, with a diminutive but formidable heroine. I would definitely read the two earlier books if they came into my hands. Recommended for any and all fans of this type of fantasy tale.

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