Christie Golden
Instrument of Fate
Ace Books 1996

The elf bard Jencir is bringing a message to the human country of Byrn and their elven queen-mother, Ariel: the elven kingdoms are preparing to attack the humans, so the humans must prepare to defend themselves. The elves' war plans are of course meant to be hidden, and Jencir is hunted down and killed - but not until after he has passed on the message, a magical lute, to the young, female, human bard, Gillien Songespynner, who has just won a bardic competition and thus is going to perform before Ariel in the Castle. But to do that, she has to get there - with the precious lute.

This is a good standard fantasy adventure book. Ms Golden is a good story-teller who really knows how to create emotions. Sometimes I was really upset with the devilry performed by sweet Gillien's enemies. But I also have some complaints: she tells far too much of the story (what's really going on) in the prologue and first chapter, before the story about Gillien starts. The prologue is also quite boring, Jencir and two of his friends discussing the political situation and telling each other things they really shouldn't have told each other if this hadn't been a dialogue made up to give the reader some background information. A nice job by the editors should have made this book much better.

The universe of "Instrument of Fate" a quite ordinary fantasy universe with elves, a giant rat race ("ghils"), and shape-changers. It's nothing wrong with this world, really, but it's nothing spectacular about it either. The "invention" I found most innovative is the traveller's god Traveler and his monks, running hostels or just wandering around as their service to the god. Another "invention" is one of the main characters' fight against his drinking problem and his painful memories of the past. It gives a human touch, a sense of reality, to the story - and gives the author an opportunity to give a piece of what-to-do-with-your-drinking-problem-if-there-aren't-any-AA-meetings-in-your-area advice, without even getting too preachy.
Karl Henriksson

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Henriksson & Henriksson 1996.