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ILL MET IN THE ARENA by Dave Duncan

ILL MET IN THE ARENA

By Dave Duncan

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7653-1687-5
Publisher: Tor

Another well thought-out fantasy from the reliable Duncan (Mother of Lies, 2007, etc.).

In Aureity the nobles arrange marriages not for wealth or status but psychic powers. The males are telekinetic (here the skill is called “heft”) and can teleport (here called “porting”) while the females, through their ability to read, dominate and edit the contents of male minds, naturally rule. To win the favor of a female who will cherish him and not “improve” his disposition, men compete in the arena at games involving hefting and porting. The narrator, Quirt of Mundil, a champion ten years ago under his real name, seeks his Enemy, whom he is psychically compelled (“doomed”) to discover, reveal, disgrace and punish. This Enemy, you see, raped and nearly killed Quirt’s mother, Hyla, Quirt being the bastard offspring, but until recently the Enemy’s identity remained unknown. Now Quirt plans by winning tourneys to gain a place close to the Enemy, so as to fulfill his doom. Unfortunately, a “baby dragon”—a noble whose 16 full royal great-great-grandparents guarantee unmatchable psychic power—has also chosen to compete. Young Humate, while overmatching Quirt in raw power, has little craft, and Quirt manages to defeat him. But there are complications. Humate’s reason for competing is to win the hand of the woman Quirt loves; worse, Humate is the Enemy’s son—Quirt’s half-brother.

Not the author’s most visionary scenario, but one with agile plots springing in unexpected directions: Duncan in good—but not top—form.