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Zypheria's Call (A Tanyth Fairport Adventure) by Nathan Lowell
Review by Ernest Lilley
Amazon Digital Services Kindle Edition  ISBN/ITEM#: B009N7ONQI
Date: 07 October 2012 List Price $4.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

After everything Tanyth Fairport went through in Ravenwood the first book in this series, sailing on a cargo ship to find the last in a long string of teachers of herbal lore and more is almost a pleasant sea cruise. But only by comparison, as she first has to face down highwaymen before she can brave the elements at sea.

Taynth Fairport has been on the road for twenty-one years, staying a few years with one teacher of herbal lore and healing or another, following a trail that she expects will end with one more teacher, a hermit who lives in the Northern Reaches. To get there she'll have to leave the small community of Ravenwood, which she's shed blood to help grow into more than a handful of huts in the wild, and where she's found a man who loves and respects her...even if she is a crazy old woman who dreams she's a raven.

In part, its those dreams that are driving her on, though she'd never meant to stay so long with her friends in Ravenwood. There she discovered that she's more than a simple student of natural healing and herbal lore, but that she's connected somehow to the spirits that look after this world, and more than once when she's said a prayer to the All-Mother, and All-Father, it would seem that they were listening.

If you've read Ravenwood, the first book in this tale, you'll know that those dreams are very real, that in dreams Tanyth's mind is open to that of a big black bird and they share an awareness that has saved the village and her own life, more than once. Now, though, she's afraid that she might lose her human self in the raven's dream, and she knows it's time to resume her trek to find her last teacher, a hermit who might be able to show her how to cope with these gifts.

Along with Frank, the old coot who'd rather not see her leave, and Rebecca, the young woman who can't see a place for herself in Ravenwood, Tanyth sets out for the port city of Kleesport, where she hopes to find a ship heading North. They may be two old folks and a young girl, or as Rebecca's camouflage might appear, a young man, but when they find trouble on the road, it finds that they're neither strangers to it, nor ill prepared to account for themselves.

A lot of people underestimate this old woman, on her own, but most wind up wiser, and sooner rather than later. This includes the banker that Tanyth presents a letter of draft to, a present from the village for all she'd done for them. Taking a position she encounters all too often, he tells her he can't give a large sum of money to a woman. It just isn't done.

Later, when she inquires about passage on a ship, she's cautioned several times to make sure it's one that has insurance, as sometimes things happen to the vessels that don't pay the local syndicate. Of course, Tanyth picks her own ship, the Zypheria's Call, named after the wind that will signal the opening of the sea lanes to the North, and of course, her captain isn't the sort to knuckle under to protection rackets.

I think you can see where that's going to wind up, and won't spoil the fun, though I will say that it will take more than foul weather and fouler deeds to stop Tanyth, or for that matter, Rebecca. Still, it's a good thing that her gifts are along on the voyage, and while her dreams may not be of ravens, sharp little eyes below decks will prove just as useful.

Nathan Lowell's stories are often low key compared to most fantasy or science fiction authors. There's danger lurking around the corner, aye, but there's also a fair amount of the daily business of doing things, whether it's taking a team of horses down the road, climbing the rigging on a sailing ship, or even putting the writings that Tanyth has been keeping of her travels in order on a sea voyage. The remarkable thing about his writing is that it's all interesting, and when the action starts and things get even more interesting, it doesn't take away from the simple pleasure of the rest of it.

As far as I'm concerned, Nathan Lowell is one of the best kept secrets in either fantasy or science fiction, but hopefully that won't always be true.

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