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Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Irresistible Forces

Categories: [ Books/Barrayar ]

ISBN: 0451211111

© Amazon.fr

A collection of six short stories edited by Catherine Asaro published in 2004.

Winterfair Gifts (Lois McMaster Bujold): Miles Vorkosigan is getting married in a few days and Ekaterin, his bride, is nervous has hell. Guests and gifts are pouring from all corners of Space, and Roic, Miles' footman is very impressed by Taura, the bioengineered femal super-soldier. When Ekaterin suddenly becomes ill, Taura notices that a pearl necklace Ekaterin tried for a few seconds the night before is actually covered in poison. Had she worn it for longer time, as she planned to do it on her wedding day, she would have died. Although the pearls seemd to have been sent by Admiral Quinn, Miles' former girlfriend, ImpSec finds out they were sent by a Vor that Miles had been investigating recently. The wedding eventually takes place without more incident, and Roic ends up making out with Taura.

The Alchemical Marriage (Mary Jo Putney): 1588. Sir Adam Macrae, a sorcerer, is a prisoner in the Tower of London for having threatened Queen Elisabeth's life after she killed Mary Stuart. Master Dee, the Queen's sorcerer, asks him to join forces with Isabel de Cortes, another sorceress, in order to repell the Spanish Armada which is about to invade Britain. Reluctant at first, scrying into the future convinces him to accept and he accompanies Isabel to her manor on the coast. There, they try to combine their powers to create a storm that will force the Armada to give up their plans. They fail at first, but after Sir Adam recovers, they perform the Alchemical Marriage that bonds forever two opposite forces (that is, they have sex together in the rain) in order to combine their powers and repell the invaders. They eventually get married since, although they are complete opposites, they are meant for each other.

Stained Glass Heart (Catherine Asaro): On Lyshriol, a remote, agricultural planet, Vyrl and Lily are in love with each other, but Vyrl is meant to marry Devon Majda, a woman much older than him, from another powerful family, in order to tighten the bonds between them in the Assembly. Vyrl then flees with Lily and they get married in secret. They are caught some days later by their parents and separated, with a threat of they marriage being canceled since they are both underaged. Some time later, Vyrl tells Devon that she too should marry the man she loves instead of making a political marriage. Later again, Majda announces at the assembly that she abdicates as Matriarch of the Majda family in favor to her sister. Vyrl is then free to stay married to Lily.

Skin Deep (Deb Stover): Since he died in a car accident two years before, Nick has been working in Heaven in the Mortal Watch Division, where he occasionaly keeps an I on his widow, Margo, who can't get over him. Nick is then sent back to the world of the Living, this time as a woman named Raquel, to help Margo find her True Love, Jared, she was supposed to marry when Nick interfered (he planted a girl in Jared's bed and got Margo to witness). Taken to a male strip club by her friend, Margo notices the main attraction is actually Jared, whom she hadn't seen in years. She eventually learns he is a DEA agent working undercover, trying to find how the strip club is involved in drug dealing. A few days later, Margo and Raquel are at the club. They witness the drug delivery and are made prisoner by the club's owner. The DEA assaults the building but Raquel gets mortally wounded. Temporarily transformed as Nick again, the latter confesses tricking Jared in order to get Margo, and also that Jared and him are actually brothers. Nick/Raquel then dies and goes back to Heaven.

The Trouble with Heroes (Jo Beverley): On Gaia, a remote Earth colony, Jenny and Dan have been friends since childhood. Dan is a fixer, having kind of magical powers caused by the planet, and he can mend all kinds of things. Moreover, he's able to sense and destroy indigenous, pure-energy entities who reduce humans and cattle to ashed in an instant. The entities seem to be growing in numbers near the equator and refugees are pouring into the city of Anglia. The fixers are all called to the front and Dan leaves after Jenny and him have at last acknowledged their love for each other. Some time later, the situation seems to have returned to normal, but the fixers seem to have all disappeared. One man looking like Dan is camping outside of the gates of Anglia. Nobody dares letting him in, since he looks so changed. Jenny sneaks out at night to meet him. She learns that he organized the fixers in groups, using one of them as bait to lure thousands of entities at the same time and destroy them in batches using wild magic. But the baits were always killed and at the end of the war there was only a handful of fixers left. Jenny and Dan agree to become partners in life, and according to the laws of Anglia, the city has to let Dan in with her.

Shadows in the Wood (Jennifer Roberson): In the forest of Sherwood in 1202, Robin Hood and Marian are injured while fighting Normans. They flee and stop to catch their breath in a very old part of the forest. Accoring to the stories Marian's mother had told her daughter, the oaks in these parts have human faces. When she touches one of them to show Robin, a man suddenly comes out of the tree. He happens to be Merlin, who was under a spell of Nimüe and he requests their help to retrieve Arthur's sword and return it to the lake. Merlin guides them to the island of Avalon (the lake has now disappeared, replaced by grass). Only women were allowed to the island, and men were only tolerated. But Merlin tells them that both of them need to go. On the “island”, Marian communicates with the spirit of the women who lived there and indicate her the location of the sword. They retrieve the sword, take it to Merlin, who throws it back into the lake (which reappears for the occasion). Then Merlin leaves forever for the island.

[ Posted on February 7th, 2010 at 14:06 | 1 comment | ]

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Read Winterfair Gifts again.

Comment #1, Matthieu Weber (Hurttala, Finland), May 30th, 2023 at 10:48

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