Peg Kerr
Emerald House Rising
Warner Aspect 1997

Jena Gemcutter is working as an apprentice with her father, Collas, who is an acclaimed master of the field. One day she meets a mysterious stranger in their own garden - a young nobleman who doesn't want to leave his name, but leaves a stone he wants to be cut. Collas takes it to his friend Arikan, a magician, who thinks he should reject the commission. But by then things are already set in motion. Jena has already discovered her magical talent. And when she suddenly is transported to a faraway castle, she knows things will never be the same again.

This is a debute novel from another Minneapolis writer (like for instance Patricia Wrede and Steven Brust). Considering that it's a debute novel, it's not a bad one. The characters are quite interesting, the plot is OK, the writing is taking the story forward nicely, without too many unnecessary interruptions. But none of it really stands out. You could choose this book or you could choose one of several hundred others that would work just as fine.

Those things that do stand out are the political system and the magical system. The country is led by a Diamond, who was the head of one of the seven aristocratic families (the Emerald, the Sapphire, the Ruby, the Amethyst, the Aquamarine, the Topaz and the Citrine). His heir is not necessarily his oldest son, who has taken the father's place as the head of the family, but circles between the family heads. If the Diamond dies in a year when the Sapphire is the heir, the Sapphire will be the next Diamond. I can't remember ever encountering a similar system, not in the real world or any fantasy or science fiction world.

In this world magic is all about seeing and choosing possibilities. I'm not really clear about how it's done and what limits there are of its resources, but at least it gives Arikas and other older adepts plenty of opportunity to teach Jena and others less skilled in the art some wisdom. As it happens, this wisdom approximately equals that of the modern day self-realization prophets, which feels a little anachronistic at times. But the light touch of feminism seems quite adequate.
Karl Henriksson

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Henriksson & Henriksson 1996.