With her highly acclaimed first novel, Speaking Dreams, Severna Park has emerged as a powerful new voice in thought-provoking science fiction. In Hand of Prophecy, she once again launches readers into a spellbinding universe of brutality, betrayal, triumph, and love.
A galaxy whirls in conflicts as tyrant slavers prepare to roar back and realm the frontier planets wrested from them generations ago. Living on one of the forfeited worlds they covet most in Frenna, bred for bondage and given a virus that guarantees two decades of youth for servitude, followed by an agonizing death. But then she learns an amazing secret: the end is not inevitable. It seems impossible, but there is an escape. An antidote. A cure.
Yet Frenna’s escape is into an exotic, bloodswept world, a fierce arena where muscled slaves wage brutal battle for their masters’ amusement. Frenna has become a medic: her job is to administer a mercifully quick end to the mortally wounded. But she still carries the secret of unfathomable freedom. And as warships arrive in conquest, this last hope must endure in a murderous domain of monstrous holograms and irresistible deadly potions. In the final frenzy, sisters and lovers, killers and saviors, all will be swept together in a maelstrom of annihilation, survival–and redemption.
Severna Park’s first novel, Speaking Dreams, was nominated for the Lambda Literary Award, which recognizes excellence in gay and lesbian literature. Park deftly avoids the forced mishmash of high-tech lingo that mars many other new ventures in science fiction. The slave culture she has created in Hand of Prophecy comes to life in spare, harsh detail; the plot is driven with whiplash intensity.
Frenna is a slave, bred for bondage and injected with a virus that guarantees 20 years of youth while in servitude, followed by an agonizing death when the virus “Fails.” After she discovers a way to survive Failure, she begins to throw off her inbred mantle of obeisance. She escapes from Olney, the slaver who owns her, only to find herself trapped, without allies, in a place more brutal than anything she’s ever known. Troah, a deposed prophetess, takes an instant disliking to Frenna and immediately sets out to make life difficult for her, perhaps fatally so.
To survive, Frenna will have to conquer 1,000 years of genetically engineered complacency and find someone to trust in a world that seems utterly devoid of the good things that make us human. Hand of Prophecy is a compelling read–electric with fear, reeking of danger, and achingly realistic. –Jhana Bach
From Publishers Weekly
Park’s second novel is set in the same harsh universe as her first, Speaking Dreams (1992), which was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. Born on a frontier world once ruled by the Faraqui, now by the Emirate, Frenna has always done what she was told. Such is the way of her people, who shrug off bad events with a single word of fatalistic acceptance: troah, unavoidable hard luck dealt by the “fateful hand.” Taken from her family at the age of 18 and enslaved on a distant world, Frenna has been injected with a virus that will keep her physically young for 20 years, then kill her. When Frenna learns how to beat the virus, she fights her inbred sense of troah and escapes with three doses of the cure, only to be caught by a Faraqui noble who puts her to work as a medic in the slave arenas of the planet Traja, where he’s also left his troublesome prophetess sister (who calls herself Troah), to keep her from stirring up trouble. As if the gore of the fighting arenas and the threat of imminent military invasion aren’t enough, Frenna must come to terms with troah: her own, and the embittered prophetess who has the ability to free slaves from the virus and who sees Frenna as a threat to her own fragile power. Park’s latest novel expands the vision of its predecessor, delving deep into the hearts of people whose brutal mores and ambitions shield their all-too-human vulnerabilities. The writing is blunt and sure, deftly knitting together resonant themes of power and helplessness, bondage and freedom.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
As the Faraqui slavers prepare to retake their former planets from the galactic Emirate, Frenna plans a desperate escape from her own enslavement and from the virus that condemns her to servitude and early death. Plunged instead into a nightmare world of gladiatorial combat and violent death, Frenna struggles to keep alive her hopes for freedom and to inspire others to join her cause. In addition to a cast of memorable characters and vividly realized action sequences, Park’s fast-paced space opera also features well-integrated scenes of graphic violence and explicit eroticism. While a strong emphasis on lesbian characters might suggest a primary appeal to gay readers, this passionately written and deeply felt novel by the author of the Lambda Literary Award-nominated Speaking Dreams (Firebrand, 1992) deserves a wide readership.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Far-future struggle against slavery, from the author of the mass market Speaking Dreams. On planet Bellea-Naya, young Frenna is the slave of the brutal veterinarian Olney Mallau of the Emirate Extension Service. Like most slaves, she’s been dosed with a virus that will give her 20 years of perfect health, then cause her to fail and die within hours. Meanwhile, the Faraqui, also slavers, are now attempting to reconquer the empire they lost generations ago, and everyone’s rushing to get off-planet. Frenna visits her old friend Renee, who gives her three doses of a cure for the virus and a ticket for the next ship out. But instead, Frenna’s grabbed by a Faraqui spy, Rasha, and taken aboard his ship. Frenna and her race were bred by the Faraqui to be their helpmeets, and Rasha expects her to fall into line; when she resists, he dumps her on planet Traja among a gladiator teamwhere Rasha’s disgraced, enslaved sister Troah immediately attempts to dominate her. Frenna teams up with fighter Hallie, revealing that she has a cure for the virusthe key to freedom for all slaves. But how can Frenna tame Troah, save Hallie, and free herself from the clutches of Faraqui and Emirate alike? A roaring, clanking bulldozer of a yarn: does the job with its blade, despite the fumes and noise. — Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.