Friday, March 12, 2010

Heart Change / Robin D. Owens. 2009

I have been a fan of Robin D. Owens' Heart series since I first read Heart Thief some 6 or 7 years ago. That book was actually the second in the series, but that was the one I started with. Owens writes fantasy/futuristic books. The Heart books have a strong paranormal element. They take place in the future on a distant planet called Celta. The inhabitants of Celta are descendants of a group of humans who landed there in the distant past. Being on Celta caused the growth of the humans' psi powers.

Over the years I've found this series to be engaging as much for the creative and complex world-building Owens has done as for the romances contained therein. The main society is an aristocratic one, so the idea of "First Families" and "Grand Families" would strike a chord if you're fond of English-set historicals. The belief system has rituals surrounding the sun and moons of Celta that remind me of pre-Christian Celtic beliefs. People who have enhanced psi power (and not everyone does) have a particular talent or "flair." Some are healers, some are warriors. All kinds of flair are important.

Heart Change opens with Signet D'Marigold contemplating her very lonely life. She knows she has flair, but she's never been able to discover what it is. Her family is all dead and gone and she has no real friends. Suddenly she is asked to take a young girl into her home to help the girl make it through her first "passage," that point in a person's life when they begin to exhibit flair and must learn to control it or die. Overnight Signet's life changes. Besides young Avallana, Signet also welcome into her home Cratag Maytree, a guardsman who has been sent to watch over Avallana and Signet.

Cratag left an unhappy home life on the Southern Continent many years before and has made a life for himself as a valued member of the Hawthorne family household. He is perplexed by this assignment and sees it as a demotion. The bright spot for him, though, is being with Signet, a woman he has seen at a handful of rituals and has been attracted to. Cratag has very little psi power and doesn't see himself as worthy of a relationship with Signet.

In the course of helping Avallana, Signet is able to discover just what her flair can do and how she can use it to help others and become a productive part of her society. And Cratag himself discovers he has more psi talent than he thought. It also turns out that someone wants to harm Avallana, so Cratag's presence is especially important.

The book has an engaging story as two people discover that they each have more than they thought they did--individually and together. Avallana is an unusual little girl (her differences are in part the result of a serious accident that happened when she was young). The minor suspense plot is believable, although I was not surprised by the identity of the villain. I had a hard time putting the book down.

I have to say I appreciate the way Owens has built such an interesting world. There are many parallels to things that are familiar to us. I mentioned the aristocratic society. Another example is the way cats play a huge part in these books. The cats are major characters. They behave in that aloof way that we're familiar with, yet still crave attention. Cats and people speak to one another telepathically. I'm not a cat person, but I do have to say I have fun with the way cats are portrayed in the books. It's done with a lot of love, I do believe.

Owens has also developed an interesting vocabulary--she uses certain words to identify things that are familiar to the reader. It is easy to figure out the meaning of the word through the context. In this particular book Owens also used color and light/darkness to set the scene and the tone in a very effective way.

An engaging story, a touching romance, a well-built futuristic world, and creative prose make it easy for me to recommend this book.

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