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The Walls of Westernfort by Jane Fletcher
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Another Celaeno book! Although it has some basic world-building problems, I love this series anyway and am glad there are still a couple books in it that I haven't read. I started reading this shortly after finishing The Temple at Landfall. Although The Walls of Westernfort references many events that occurred in that book, it takes place 16 years later.

I enjoyed getting to see how several characters from The Temple at Landfall were doing. Chip, Kim, and Lynn all made appearances, as did several of their children, and a minor character reappeared as a more prominent one. Westernfort was a more established settlement, although there were still problems on the horizon that needed to be worked out, namely what would happen once Lynn, their only Imprinter, died.

I also appreciated that there were no long, infodumpy passages detailing how the world worked, at least not that I could remember. The animosity between the Guards and Rangers came up, as did cloning, imprinting, and Celaeno being a spaceship, but it was worked into the story more smoothly than in the other Celaeno books I'd read.

The biggest problem I had with this book, at least initially, was Natasha. She was a very different kind of Celaeno protagonist, which could have been a good thing, except she had a tendency to annoy me. She was very naive, to the point of seeming stupid, and overly pious. This let up a bit after she met a few Westernfort residents and began to realize that much of what she'd been told wasn't necessarily true, but it never quite went away.

If Natasha hadn't rubbed me the wrong way so much, I think this would have been my top favorite Celaeno book so far. The pacing and overall story were excellent. I loved watching the Westernfort residents try to puzzle out the secrets that Natasha/Jess and her “family” were hiding – they could sense that the women were hiding something, but they assumed that their big secret was that they were horse thieves planning on stealing from Westernfort. I loved the level of suspense as the Guards' secrets slowly unraveled, and I loved that Natasha had very good reasons for feeling torn over what she should do. Her religious beliefs were part of it, but so were her familial feelings towards the two Guards who were with her. She'd never had a loving mother, and she had a tendency to latch onto anyone who gave her the kind of motherly love she'd craved her whole life.

The romance was a bit more front-and-center in this book than in the other Celaeno books I'd read. Unfortunately, it made me a little...uncomfortable. As is usual in Fletcher's books, Dani and Natasha had many cute moments together, and I would have been completely on board with their relationship if I hadn't been so aware that Natasha was lying to Dani right from the start. Thankfully, she was uncomfortable with the situation too, and tried not to act on her feelings for Dani or to encourage Dani's feelings for her. Dani had lots of reasons to hate the real Natasha: she had a painful history with Guards, she had personal experience with practices that ran counter to the religious teachings that were so dear to Natasha, and she cared for the people Natasha had been sent to kill. Shelly, a sweet but not terribly bright Westernfort resident with a huge crush on Dani, further complicated things.

I liked that Natasha's secrets were revealed with plenty of time for everyone, including herself, to process what she'd been about to do and why she'd changed her mind. I also liked that she had time to win back people's trust (although the heretics embraced her more quickly than I would have expected, with the result that they seemed more like a joke than anything). What I did not like was that the book ended the moment Natasha and Dani resolved things between them. I like happy endings, but that ending was way too sudden.

All in all, I enjoyed The Walls of Westernfort, even though this protagonist definitely was not one of my favorites. I've still got one more Celaeno book in my e-book collection, plus one I haven't purchased yet. I'm looking forward to them both. I'd wish for even more Celaeno books, except it looks like Fletcher may no longer be writing new works – the most recent date I can find on her site is 2010, which makes me all kinds of sad.

(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Sep 24, 2013 |
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