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Chalice of Life
Adventurers of the Carotian Union, Book 1

by Karen Anne Webb

      Karen Anne Webb has an exciting new science fiction / fantasy series, The Adventures of the Carotian Union. I make the classification of science fiction / fantasy because this series contains elements of both science fiction and fantasy. The story takes place on worlds in another galaxy and there is new technology. However, there are also magic, shapeshifters, and other types of fantasy characters, such as dragons.

The first book, Chalice of Life, introduces six characters from five different races and social groups. They are all from different planets in the Carotian Union. Some are human, others are not.

The group is led by Mistra, a princess who wields magic, and includes a holy knight with a sentient sword, a minstrel and con-man, and a monk who uses mental disciplines. There is also a black Tigroid who speaks, a Lemurian (part human and part cat, though the name implies lemur qualities) who is also a thief, and a human shapeshifter.

The group has been gathered by a wise sage who sets them on a quest through six portals. Before they can accomplish their goal they are faced with several hurdles. First, an ill dragon blocks a portal to their next destination. They must find the jeweled chalice of healing in order to cure the dragon and his whole community before they can get on with their mission. To find the chalice, they search an ancient ruined city with the aid of a human archaeologist. Also looking for riches at the ruin are smugglers - very human space pirates armed with blasters.

The Chalice of Life is definitely full of adventure, but most of the action doesn't start until after the first 100 pages. There is a lot of time taken to describe the worlds, biology, societies, and belief systems of each of the these characters. More details unfold as the characters begin their quest and start interacting with one another. The author has been able to build quite distinct worlds with very individual religions and codes of ethics. Sometimes, the story slows because of these philosophical discussions between characters. However, once the characters start using their skills and applying their ethics, readers are more fully able to get into the group's ability to brainstorm solutions and find clues. It is interesting to note that much of the activity in the ruins while looking for the chalice has the feel of a video game where players solve puzzles, fight foes, and capture tokens. Here the tokens are implements needed to solve other puzzles.

I really liked this book. The adventure in the ruins was exciting and the interaction with the dragon colony was delightful. I even enjoyed the drier philosophical parts. I would note, however, that frequent use of contemporary American speech and ideas sometimes jars the flow the flow of believability of the narrative. For example, when the group finds gems "the size of golf balls," I wondered how these people would know about golf. When I read the footnotes at the end, however, I realized that the author intended the book to be a translation by an Earth human and was making the work accessible to a human audience. It would have been useful to mention that in a forward, just as some authors have justified brand new Sherlock Holmes stories by saying that a new manuscript had been unearthed in a dusty library somewhere.

The Chalice of Life covers the questors’ adventures through one portal only. Since six are mentioned, it is assumed that Karen Anne Webb has at least five more books in mind. I eagerly await new adventures with this unique cluster of characters.

The Book

Dragon Moon Press
February 2007
1896944337 / 978-1896944333
Science fiction / fantasy
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NOTE: Reviewed from eBook edition, available through the publisher's site. The Amazon link is for the paperback edition.

The Reviewer

Janie Franz
Reviewed 2008
NOTE: Reviewer Janie Franz is the author of Freelance Writing: It’s a Business, Stupid!and co-author of The Ultimate Wedding Reception Book and The Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Book. Coming Soon: The Ultimate Wedding Workbook.
© 2008