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The Golden Hills of Westria by Diana L. Paxson
Review by Carolyn Frank
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0765308894
Date: 07 February, 2006 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Phoenix, the 18-year-old son of the current king of Westria, does not really start growing up until after he is abducted by raiders. Sombra, his childhood friend, believes in him but has her own growing up to do at the College of the Wise.

Julian, the hero of the earlier books in the series and now the middle-aged king of Westria, has grown comfortable in the role of sovereign over a peaceful agricultural country. Rana, his queen, is quietly resenting the changes that middle age brings.

Both are forcibly evicted from their complacency by the appearance of a charismatic religious fanatic, Mother Mahalial. With her rapidly growing religious following and equally heavily determined army, she is determined to gain her paradise, a place where the sun sets, Westria.

In part this book is a tale of the conflict between an old-school nature religion, that of the guardians of Westria, versus the lure of a single sun god. The religious theologies are described to some degree, as they motivate the major characters, but happily for the readers are not overly dwelt upon.

Filled with sword fights, bow-and-arrow marksmanship, and several set battles, the story keeps lovers of mayhem happy. While the overall level of sorcery and fantasy remains low key through much of the book, it credibly swells towards the climax.

Formulaic in its adherence to a fantasy plot, this book is enjoyable as an entertainment. Neither seeking to teach nor to preach, this is a light, fun read, destined for folk desiring a well written escape into a carefully considered fantasy world.

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