VENOM IN HER VEINS by Tim Pratt,Â Wizards of the Coast, p/b, $ 7.99, www.dungeonsanddragons.com
Reviewed by Sandra Scholes
On the orders of Scitheron the yuan-ti are to dispose of a baby who is human, which is a foolish thing to do as their females are laying less eggs than normal, and to let a potential warrior for Zehir die would be a travesty. They take the baby to a forest glade, leaving her there, abandoned and alone, but not for long as Krailash and Alaia, dragon born people the Serrats find the baby, and she wants to adopt it while Krailash and his men take revenge on her kind for abandoning her so cruelly.
The cover art shows Zaltys looking persistent, dangerous and in pursuit with her trustee bow and arrow. With what looks like the dangerous smoke of the Terazul drug floating behind her; it gives the impression that she has to also help change her new clanâ€™s farming of the plant that can cause misery to so many people.
In the novel, Zaltys is an adopted human child with an odd, scaly skin disease who has been told that her family was wiped out and she was the only survivor, but is this the truth or is the truth still waiting for her to discover it? As Alaia has not had other children Zaltys is her only child even though she is adopted and acts as a princess to Alaiaâ€™s people. Zaltys finds this a bore as she has to go to important state meetings. This feels alien to her, as does her life in the city. She prefers the wild jungle regions, and the thrill of the hunt, but she has no idea why the wild affects her so much. She thinks it could be something to do with her past as a child, but she has only dreams where she sees certain events, and cannot understand what they mean. When Zaltys and her men are met by a giant shadow serpent, they have to act fast, and it is Zaltys’s arrow that strikes it, but when it speaks to her psychically, she is shocked by its ability.
I found it a very atmospheric novel full of answers to questions that Zaltys needed to find out for herself. This leads to the feeling that she must have felt alone all those years as a young child growing up with those who were not her own people. You would think there would be a very emotional feeling to this novel, but most of it is kept out of the readers range, and the novel seems to concentrate on Zaltys finding the answers to her real clan.
As well as a good fantasy novel, there is a good deal of mystery as to the origins of Zaltys, and why she was abandoned as a baby. There are a lot of scenes in this that will make you wince the more she finds out about her heritage. Tim Pratt lures you in with his writing style and penchant for the dramatic and dangerous.