Holly Lisle book since the 90s, when I read The Secret Texts trilogy. After finishing Grimspace, I looked for something different. And since Tor has been filling up my to-read pile with lots of nice hardcovers, I thought I'd choose something from that stack. Lisle was the most familiar to me.
Holly Lisle has published thirty or so novels. She is famous for being very supportive of aspiring writers, and her website is a treasure trove of information. You can tell just by looking at her site that wow, she's been writing for quite a while.
Here is Tor's blurb:
Stolen away from their families, they are slaves, women with no names and no futures. Every moment of their days controlled by the avatars of the stone Eyes--Obsidian, Emerald, Raxinan, Ruby, Windcrystal, Sapphire, Sunspar, Tigereye...
And the most powerful of them all, Hawkspar, the eyes of time. Kings and despots come to her to know their futures, and she wades in the river of time, pulls apart its sticky threads, to arrange the world to her satisfaction.
But she too was once a slave, plucked from her home, chosen by the Eyes to live in service to them, as much a slave now as she ever was. And with her sight into past and future, she can see the secrets of the Eyes--and the evil of the Eyes.
Before the death of Hawkspar, another must be chosen by the Eyes--but the avatar has her own plans, and chooses a slave for her courage and rebelliousness, rather than her dedication to the goals of the Eyes.
This slave is put to trial, but time after time, she is protected by forces unseen. Once she has swallowed the bitter liquid and has her eyes pulled from her head and replaced with the Eyes of Hawkspar stone, she can slip into the streams of time... and use time to her own ends -- to free the slaves once and for all, and destroy the Eyes, even if it means destroying herself in the process.
This story is about a slave, and her fight for freedom. She is a member of the Tonk race. Rather than a nation, the Tonk are spread throughout the world. It turns out that there are quite a few Tonk among not only Hawkspar's fellow slaves, but among the Oracles themselves. And one of them has cooked up a plot. Once the slave--who, through most of the story, doesn't remember her name--takes on the Eyes, she becomes Hawkspar, and she immediately sets her predecessor's plans into motion. Then, she cooks up a few plans of her own.
I love novels about oppressed people fighting for their freedom. And this one was as good as any I've ever read.
There's a few things you can count on in a Holly Lisle novel. One is the great maps. There are two in Hawkspar, one a world map, and the other a zoom in on the mini-continent of Hyre. My main complaint here is that these maps appear to be for the first book in the series, Talyn. These novels stand alone--I didn't at all feel like I had to read Talyn to understand Hawkspar, but the maps seriously needed to be updated. No cities mentioned in Hawkspar appeared in the map at all.
Another Holly Lisle trademark is the visual magic. In Hawkspar, there are two forms of magic. One form, used exclusively by Hawkspar, is a river of time, sketched so well that I could envision it. The second, used by the Tonk, manifests itself as brightly colored polygons and circles.
And finally a good sign of a Holly Lisle novel is the religion. And here I can see Lisle's growth as an author since the last time I read her work. In The Secret Texts, I had a very difficult time accepting the religion, and especially the religious conversions. Most especially when the main characters converted. Here, Lisle was MUCH more subtle. It reminded me of how they handed the Elysian Fields in the movie Gladiator.
I would definitely classify Hawkspar as an epic fantasy. I enjoyed Hawkspar a great deal--it is one of my favorite reads of 2008. I understand from the author's blog that the future of the third book, Redbird, is still undecided. And that's a shame because there were some unfinished questions in Hawkspar for which I wanted answers.
I want to read Talyn now. Maybe I'll read that for my next debut break.