From Publishers Weekly
The Earth of this futuristic fable is still scarred by the "Big Kill," the disastrous crescendo of our civilization that all but obliterated terrestrial life. Now a new threat has appeared in the form of rising sea levels, a process that appears unbounded by such petty concerns as a plausible source for all that water. Xulai, initially an unimportant and expendable young girl, encounters a specter from the days of Big Kill, an entity bent on preventing Xulai from realizing her potential role in the salvation of humanity. "Ecofeminist" Tepper (The Margarets) balances pointed criticisms of our era with a calamity that appears to owe far more to Genesis than to science, but the writing is slick and carefully crafted, Xulai has plenty of pluck, and her companions possess a nearly ideal mixture of virtues, flaws, and enthusiasm for redemptive sacrifice.
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Years after apocalyptic events killed most of the earth’s people, humankind has regained some level of society in widespread kingdoms, but both the ocean waters and the forces of evil are rising again. Abasio, an itinerant merchant and tinker, comes to the aid of Xulai, a frightened little girl assigned a terrifying errand by her dying princess-guardian, an errand that will bring the pair into opposition with the evil Alicia, Duchess of Altamont, and ultimately send them on a dangerous quest across the continent and over the seas to Xulai’s home country. There’s more than first meets the eye to Abasio, Xulai, and Alicia, and the stakes rise as their true roles in the world are slowly revealed. Tepper has developed a dependable following with works that have an epic fantasy feel but that ultimately reveal logically consistent scientific trappings. This work is no exception, a successful blend of dying-earth fantasy and wicked-witch fable. Here the transition from fantasy adventure fable to environment and genetics thought-piece is less gracefully managed, but the novel ultimately succeeds on both levels. While set in the same world as 1993’s A Plague of Angels, this title can be read alone with no difficulty. --Neil Hollands