Stranger at the Wedding

Stranger at the Wedding
Barbara Hambly, 1994

Premise: Wizard-in-training Kyra is surprised to receive a letter from her estranged family, even one informing her that her sister is to marry. Her teachers advise her not to go, but the letter crystallizes the premonitions that have been plaguing her - if she doesn't stop the wedding, her sister could die!

This is set in the same world as the Windrose books (The Silent Tower and its sequels) but doesn't involve any of the same characters, except peripherally. It does hinge on the hostile and complicated relationship in that world between "normal" people and those with magical abilities.

Kyra left home because her merchant father wanted to rise in society, and having a wizard as a daughter would be a scandal. But being born to magic is an irresistible call, and no matter what else she wanted, Kyra couldn't not learn to use her abilities. She found a local teacher and her parents looked the other way for a while, but it ended very badly.

How badly is part of the story of the book. Kyra reveals her backstory in occasional stories and flashbacks, and the full complexity of her past lends a different depth to the book than I expected going in. I should have known better and looked past the somewhat silly cover art earlier, though. I've read enough of Hambly's work to know that her stories always twist in unexpected directions.

At first, Kyra seems to be a common character type - the girl set up to be different from the flighty, feminine girls around her. But just because she's practical and clever doesn't mean she isn't also interested in art and sympathetic to love, even before she understands it herself. I really appreciated that she repeatedly defends her more traditionally attractive sister's intelligence and skill with both design and math.

The main romance tends a bit toward sudden and dramatic, but it mostly works given the society/family drama set-up.

Overall this was an enjoyable fantasy about trust, passion, the expectations parents put on their children, the struggle to choose a future that society (or family) condemns, dark pasts and predatory men, and of course, one woman's exhausting struggle to rescue her sister from a curse. I quite liked it, but I'm not sure I loved it.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book


Popular posts from this blog

The Silence of the Elves (crosspost)

The Santa Claus Man (crosspost)

The Deep Beyond