A slave girl's strange visions earn her a coveted place as the Firelord's handmaiden, but when the Firelord dies and is replaced by the handmaiden, she pays the price for her powers.
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In a grim future world where the sun has vanished from the sky, people glean what warmth and light they can from the firestones mined by an untouchable caste known as the Quelled. Countless taboos are shattered when Elsha, an idealistic and rebellious Quelled girl, is chosen to be handmaid to the Firelord--the man revered by those calling themselves the Chosen. Traveling in the privileged class, Elsha encounters ugly, unthinking prejudice; she also meets a few relatively enlightened Chosen men, who cannot help falling in love with the feisty maid. Spurred on by a hatred of injustice, Elsha battles against sexism, improves life for the Quelled, and even (it seems) hastens the return of the sun to her world. Because there is never any real doubt that Elsha will inherit the Firelord's mantle, there are moments--especially as the harsh spectacle of life in the mines recedes--when her various victories grow a bit predictable. But this is a minor quibble; taken as a whole, the stalwart heroine's visionary struggles are nothing short of inspiring. With a spare and effective style, Jordan brings Elsha's chilly world into sharp focus with a minimum of description. Elsha's exploits will appeal to fans of Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Jordan (A Time of Darkness, 1990), another tale set in an ecologically devastated future. Living in treeless mountains under cold perpetual clouds, human society has split into two classes: the autocratic Chosen and the despised Quelled, who mine the coal that's the only available source of heat. To general consternation, the ruling Firelord has picked Elsha, an angry Quelled teenager, as his new and only Handmaid; she vows to better the lot of her people, though it means battling centuries of prejudice. Though the scenario here is promising, Jordan focuses on Elsha's thoughts and smoldering spirit to the exclusion of believable plot development, background detail, and even character (Chosen and Quelled alike seem sketchy and unrealized). Meanwhile, Elsha sounds like a walking essay (``Your treatment of us is wrong, evil and unendurable,'' etc.); when she becomes Firelord after a perfunctory, awkwardly inserted battle, her decrees meet no determined resistance from Chosen who've previously responded to her with violent hatred. The emotion is affecting here, but relationships are confused rather than complex; loose ends dangle from the long, predictable story, and Elsha is unchanged by her experiences. (Fiction. YA) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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