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Fifth Quarter by Tanya Huff
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Fifth Quarter (1995)

by Tanya Huff

Series: Quarters (2)

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605416,147 (3.82)12
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While set in the same world as Sing the Four Quarters, it isn't a direct sequel. This actually helped a lot, because the sort of idealized original setting doesn't have a ton of inherent conflict - the Empire was a great place to look at the magic system from an outsider's point of view and introduce some morally gray characters.

I didn't totally love both the main sibling characters - she's a little too perfect and he's a narcissistic asshole whose sole redeeming quality is that he's pretty. And the "bad guy" is sort of muddy - his plan is awfully weak and he goes from appalling to sort of the hero way too quickly to be believable.

The semi-incestuous attraction started out really creepy and turned sort of fascinating, which I did not expect, and made the whole love triangle work way better for me than it should have. And the actual villain was both totally sympathetic and completely repulsive, which also worked out nicely.

Overall, a bit choppy but compelling, and I am looking forward to the sequel. ( )
  JeremyPreacher | Mar 30, 2013 |
Summary: Vree and Bannon are the two best assassins the Sixth Army has to offer. They've never missed a target... but their latest assignment is waiting for them, with a trap that they have no hope of escaping. When their target somehow steals Bannon's body, his soul must take up residence in Vree's body, or risk dispersal and death. The two siblings have always been a team, but the strain of sharing a single body may prove too much for them as they track down the man who has absconded with Bannon's body. When they find him, though, they are unable to force him out, so he offers them a choice: either they must continue to share Vree's body forever, or else they can have Bannon's body back... after they've helped him acquire the Prince's body instead. And possible body-snatching is not the only danger to the Imperial family, for there's another man on the loose with just as much magical power, but with much darker designs... and he's got his eye on the Prince as well.

Review: One thing I really enjoy in my fantasy novels is, well, novelty. Speculative fiction gives authors so much scope for telling new stories and building new worlds, and yet sometimes it seems like we just get epic quest after epic quest. Not that epic quests can't be done well, but if an author can give me a story that doesn't feel like I've read it ten times before, that's always a huge bonus. And that, I think was one of the strongest things about Fifth Quarter - I hadn't read it, or anything like it, before. I suppose I've come across body snatching in Anne Rice's Tale of the Body Thief, and the idea of two consciousnesses sharing one body in Stephenie Meyer's The Host, but the combination of those two ideas, plus the sibling dynamics, plus the assassins as main characters, plus the elements of necromancy and zombies, all combined into a story that felt interesting and fresh. The magical system wasn't particularly original - a combination of elemental magic and sung magic - nor was it explained in any great detail, but the magic itself was never really the point, and there were plenty of other things on which to focus.

The writing, while nothing phenomenal, was unobtrusive and easy to read. Huff's great at building suspense and keeping the reader engaged from early on, and I read the last half of this book in one solid sitting. I was also pleasantly surprised at how good Huff writing realistic-sounding dialogue, and at making potentially very complex scenes (Vree arguing with Bannon inside her head while simultaneously arguing with another character out loud) clear and understandable. The characters are all well-built and multi-dimensional as well, and for the most part even the bad guys are interesting and sympathetic. (Although it chafes a little to call someone as shallow and obnoxious as Bannon "multi-dimensional"; I spent most of the book hoping he'd get his own body back so that Vree could kick him in the shins.) I also really enjoyed that pretty much everyone in the book was just sort of casually bisexual - it's still pretty rare (although becoming less so) to find GLBT characters in fiction where their GLBT-ness isn't the point of the story... or even a point of discussion.

The only character note that really bothered me were the incestuous overtones. Vree being in love with her brother provided some interesting dilemmas - like, is it still incest if it's her brother's body but not her brother's soul? (the biologist answers: YES) - but it also meant that there were some unfortunate "jokes" about her brother being inside her that really grossed me out. Also, it didn't help that this was the second book I've read in less than a month that dealt with the idea of incest. This one was better than On Fire's Wings, though, just because at least in Fifth Quarter, incest was treated by all of the characters as something taboo and wrong. So, while it did skeeve me out whenever it came up, it didn't totally dominate my view of the book. Which is a good thing, since I really enjoyed just about everything else about this novel, and will definitely be looking for more of Huff's books in the future. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Fifth Quarter is technically the second book in a series, but while it is set in the same world as the first one, none of the characters overlap, so it certainly can stand on its own. This book would be a good match for people who like their fantasy novels original, mature, fast-reading, and with a slight tinge of horror. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Feb 6, 2010 |
Huff has created a colorful, interesting world peopled with complex characters. Her writing style is highly readable as well, making for a good, solid book that, while not genius, is darn fine reading. ( )
  Queensowntalia | Dec 22, 2007 |
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For Fe, once again, because she wanted it so badly.
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There were guards on duty at the entrance to the marshal's tent but they'd expected that and were accustomed to using less obvious entrances.
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THE SONG OF DEATH - Bannon and Vree, brother and sister, they are assassins of the highest caliber who have long plied their trade for the Havakeen army. But all their skill and experience cannot save them from a magic-sprung trap that will see the two forced to share one body when the very man they've been sent to assassinate steals Bannon's body for himself. How long brother and sister can coexist in one body neither can guess. And so they set out to catch and defeat this foe who has already bested them once.
But when Bannon and Vree confront this master of a magic beyond their comprehension, he offers them a terrible choice - to continue their new dual existence forever, or to betray the Empire they have served all their lives. For it is not control of Bannon's body which is Gyhard's true goal but rather the body - and with it the identity and power - of the Imperial Prince!
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