I pre-ordered Robin D. Owens collection of Celtan novellas, Hearts and Swords, because I love this series. When the book auto-shipped itself into my iPad at midnight on Tuesday, I dropped what I was reading and dived right in. I’m glad I did. (And this is what I love about ebooks!)
The first story in the collection is Heart and Sword. It doesn’t actually take place on Celta. It’s about the discovery of Celta, and takes place on Nuada’s Sword, one of the colony ships. Which is both off-course and way overdue, in a manner of speaking. The three-ship expedition planned on being in space for about seventy-five years. A century-and-a-half tops. Instead, when the Captain’s Exec wakes Kelse Bountry from cryo-sleep, it’s been 250 years, and Kelse has a mutiny on his hands. And all three ships are running out of critical supplies. Like food. And fuel.
Kelse has been woken to make the life-or-death decisions, because that is his psi-power, his Flair. Everyone on board all three ships has Flair. They ran from Earth because they were being persecuted for their psi. The mutineers believe that a nearby wormhole will return them to a civilized Earth that has hopefully gotten over its prejudices. The loyalists don’t want to take that risk, they remember the psi purges all too well. The last planetary probes tell Kelse that the system just ahead has a planet that should support human life, but the approach path will use up the last of every ship’s fuel.
What does the good Captain choose?
Escape Rating A: This is a fantastic foundation story for the series. It reminded me, quite favorably, of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover Landfall, and a even little bit of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsdawn, the establishing stories for those beloved series. Robin Owens couldn’t ask for much better company.
There are three other stories in this collection. All concern characters who have appeared in earlier books, and whose stories just needed telling.
Noble Heart is particularly compelling for long-time readers of the series. Members of the Clover family have appeared in many of the stories. Mitchella Clover married into the nobility by marrying Straif Blackthorne in Heart Choice. On Celta, everyone has expected the Clovers to test into the nobility for some time. Their Flair has been increasing with each generation. And unlike the inbred nobility, the commoner Clovers have a LOT of generations. Mitchella’s cousin Walker Clover has been young Nuin T’Ash’s tutor and bodyguard. Walker is not an ambitious man. But Walker’s family has been keeping a secret from him. Walker’s mother is not Fen Clover, but Latif Heliotrope, a noblewoman his father had an affair with just before he married Fen.
Nuin’s first Flair Passage triggers Walker’s Passages. All three of them at once. After five days of fever dreams, Walker new Flair power instantly catapults the entire Clover family to GrandLord status. Not first-tier nobility, but second-tier, and vaulting them over the third-tier in one huge leap. The rise in status produces jealousy among the nobles, which is expected. It also produces a near-civil war inside the family, and the older generation that has always run the very-profitable Clover family business thinks that it can continue to run things with Walker as a figurehead.
Walker didn’t want to be the Head of the Family, but now that he is GrandLord Walker, he damn well will be Head of the Family. He was taught to do his duty, and that is now his duty. Whatever it takes.
Escape Rating A: Walker is a very interesting character. He doesn’t want this, but he’s going to do it. He does complain a little, but he should. His entire identity changes in about 15 minutes. There’s also a love story here, but it’s a part of the changes in Walker’s life and status, and his establishment of himself. Very, very well done.
This was a great collection of stories, but I think you need to be a fan of the Celta books in order to really get full enjoyment out of it. The other two stories, Heart Story and especially Heart and Soul, directly relate to events in previous books.If you are a fan, you are in for a real treat! If you’ve never read the Celta books, and you like futurist romance, start with Heart Mate. You’ll be glad you did