From Publishers Weekly
Set in the same future world as Kirith Kirin (2000), which won a Lambda Award, Grimsley's latest SF novel intimately explores the conflicts between magic and science, subconscious and conscious action, the past and the future. The planet of the tech-using Hormling of Senal is connected to the land of Irion, home of the magic-believing Erejhen, via the mysterious Twil Gate, a portal of unknown origins in the ocean. Although traders on both sides enjoy brisk commerce through the gate, Hormling leaders look more and more to Irion as a means to provide land and resources for their expanding civilization. Translator Jedda Martele, member of a Senal diplomatic mission to Irion, is caught in the middle when the delegation's true purpose is revealed: they are meant to be in place to parlay for a Hormling invasion force after it races through the gate to occupy strategic Irion ports, but they haven't reckoned with the ability of the so-called "backwards" Erejhen to handle invaders. Grimsley's finely textured societies have a clockwork intricacy that fascinates even as it dispels surprise. Unlike many "literary" authors who fail when they try to write SF, PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award winner Grimsley (Winter Birds) has the necessary world-building skills to shine brightly here.
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*Starred Review* As an advanced, technology-based culture, the Hormling of Senal were perforce interested in exploring what lay beyond the Twil Gate, which they approached with astounding arrogance, certain that their knowledge was far superior to whatever primitive culture they would encounter there. And so it seemed, for a long time. For the inhabitants of Irion, on the other side, firmly believed in a flat world and in magic rather than science. Burgeoning to more than 30 billion in Senal, the Hormling were primarily interested in discovering and using Irion's resources. When brash Hormling officials present themselves as conquerors, though, they are rudely awakened by how unprimitive Irion is. Hormling linguist Jedda Martele's view of Irion changes quickly, for, nonjudgmental and open to learning and the new and unexpected, she soon gains friends in Irion. Magically transported to an earlier Irion, she meets Irion himself, the powerful magician who built the Twil Gate, and so begins a new life in which perceptions of who she is, her place in the world, and the world itself are drastically challenged and proven other than she could have imagined. Besides magic aplenty, there is a beautifully developed spirituality in mainstream novelist Grimsley's spare, poetic sf debut, and a compelling love story, too, making it a quiet sort of page-turner that elegantly evokes a reader's fascination and wonder. Paula Luedtke
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