by Doranna Durgin
Sequel to Dun Lady\’s Jess. Wanted to read this one enough I finally just bought a secondhand copy online. Pretty enjoyable. The writing is smoother- only a few times did I have to stop and re-read a conversation or phrase again because it wasn\’t quite clear what was going on. This story is set in the alternate, magical world. Jess can change between being Lady the horse and being human, but as Lady she can\’t change herself back voluntarily. A few of her friends from the human world are here. Jess thinks she will just settle into another of the courier holds, learning more about how to navigate life as a human, and sorting out her feelings for Carey (who used to be her owner and rider when she was only a horse). But things get dicey when they realize some unknown wizards are working dangerously powerful magic, and at the same time some confused, strangely-behaving people show up here and there- animals turned human against their will. Mule, large wild cat, cairndog… None of them have had the training and close human guidance Jess received when she suddenly changed the first time, so it doesn\’t go well for them.
Jess and her companions have to figure out fast who is causing trouble and why- they suspect it is their old enemy, who wants revenge. Turns out to be more complicated than that. I was expecting the story to have a lot of animals-turned-people in it, but although the ethics of that is explored, the turned people themselves are in brief scenes. Mostly it\’s about the intricacies of how magic works in this world, the laws and strictures around it, the confusion of figuring out who is wielding it wrongly. They almost don\’t put the pieces together in time. There was a huge component of substance abuse which I didn\’t expect to be part of the story, it was a surprise that fit into the narrative well. How it affected magic, the dangers which none in this world could anticipate, really. In the end they go after the bad wizards and there is a bitter showdown of sorts.
It\’s also a romance. Not a heavy one- but the tension of feeling between Jess and Carey runs a thread through the whole story, plus the interest another courier has in her, and one of her friend\’s interest in him. Some of them don\’t really realize what\’s going on at first, so it\’s not really a triangle- kind of an undercurrent. There\’s also the long struggle Jess has to gain control of when she is horse or human. Most interesting were still the parts where Jess as human struggles against her equine nature- or acts out what she feels naturally, on purpose (pretty funny when she goes kicking guys she doesn\’t like). The way unfamiliar people treated her was interesting- you\’d think in a world of magic an animal-turned-human wouldn\’t be unusual, but it is, and people don\’t know whether to treat her as an intelligent being deserving respect, or someone they can walk all over because she was an animal. I hope some of these ideas get worked out more in the final book of the series.
Rating: 3/5 352 pages, 1997