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A Slow and Silent Stream
Loren W. Cooper
The Fiction Works, 208 pages

A Slow and Silent Stream
Loren W. Cooper
Loren W. Cooper has lived all over the west and midwest of the US. He has taught English and Mathematics, built buildings and torn them down, and worked as a consultant. He has published numerous short stories on the net and in print over the last few years, winning the NESFA in 1998 and the EPPIE in 2000. He currently lives in Oregon and works for HP.

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A review by Susan Dunman

"Hate is not so far from love." With this statement, Tornin begins to tell his story and explain how he has come to this conclusion. As the son of a Borderland Lord, Tornin values his independence, yet is compelled to choose sides in an impending war between the kingdoms of Lucia and Moghan.

The Borderlands form an uneasy buffer zone between the Kingdom of Lucia and the Moghan Domain. Tornin feels torn between the Lucian king's request for his allegiance and the previous freedom he enjoyed as nobility in the renegade Borderlands. Complicating matters is the fact that his mother is Moghan herself and has made sure her son is skilled in the ways of the Haman, a Moghan discipline involving the use of psychic and other paranormal abilities.

When his relatives announce that they are going to fight the Moghan, Tornin decides to join forces with his uncle, whom he adores. The war proves to be a long, difficult ordeal, but Tornin is an excellent warrior and learns to ruthlessly kill with sword, dagger, and bow. Heavy losses force both sides to pull back and regroup. Particularly disturbing to the Lucians are claims that some have witnessed the Moghan's use of Soulslayers, powerful sorcerers who can claim men's free will, forcing them into zombie-like servitude.

Returning to the city of Easthold, Tornin must decide whether to swear fealty to Lucia or become a member of the Wolfshead Regiment, an elite corps of warriors led by the enigmatic Lord Scaon. Tornin senses that Lord Scaon also wields Haman knowledge, especially when he detects the faint glow of power radiating from the daggers issued to all Wolfshead warriors. The question is, does Scaon intend to use that power for good or for evil?

In his first novel, A Slow and Silent Stream, Loren Cooper creates a primitive feudal world and invites readers to explore its many mysteries through the eyes of Tornin, a 17-year-old adventurer who becomes world-weary before his time. Tornin is an angry young man who often vents his rage in battles with an assortment of suspicious characters.

Pacing is brisk and fight scenes are frequent and often described in detail. Throughout the story, Tornin attempts to analyze his overpowering emotions by retreating into a metaphysical space he refers to as the Hall of Silences. Here he offers his thoughts in soliloquy style on the conflicting powers of love and hate and why one should be chosen over the other.

These thoughtful interludes provide breaks in the action and help readers see what drives the motivations of the main character. However, those who prefer non-stop action may see these introspective conversations as distracting rather than informative. In either case, it is a creative device to help readers identify with Tornin and think about the love/hate issues that drive his actions.

Because Tornin always seems to be angry, his response to situations often appears extreme. His seething frustrations can become a little too predictable, making it difficult to feel much sympathy for the character or his plight. In fact, I found myself liking Tornin's tough little battle horse, Burr, better than his owner. But what Tornin and other characters may lack in their personal development, the author makes up for in imagination and action. Tornin's world is a rough and ready place where hesitation is often lethal and the hint of magic plays at the edge of reality.

Those who enjoy medieval worlds where might makes right and life is a daily challenge will appreciate a visit to the Borderlands. Mistaken identities, hidden motives, and the constant struggle between actions which nourish hate or encourage love make this an engaging novel with an interesting mix of philosophy and sword-clanging action.

Copyright © 2004 Susan Dunman

Susan became a librarian many light years ago and has been reviewing books ever since. Audiobooks and graphic novels have expanded her quest to find the best science fiction in Libraryland.

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