Hart's Hope
Orson Scott Card
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Get Orson Scott Card's *Hart's Hope* delivered to your door! Hart's Hope
Orson Scott Card
Orb Books
August 2003 (reprint)
304 pages
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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There is no justice in a story as ethereal and harshly beautiful as Hart's Hope being the most overlooked novel in an important author's body of work. Orson Scott Card has crafted some magnificent tales over the years, including the Ender's Game cycle and the books of Alvin Maker. But it is only in Hart's Hope that Card most successfully dips into the mythical traditions of the ancients that are the predecessors of the modern fantasy genre.

Curled Up With a Good BookCorrupt King Nasilee rules over Burland with ruthlessly abusive power. In a land where the old gods -- the Hart, the Sweet Sisters -- are honored equally beside the newcome, plainly-named "God," a dream comes to the king's greatest general. The vision shows Zymas that he must abandon Nasilee's charge and join the man who will be a just king. A Godsman bears a message to Palicrovol, Count of Traffing, that he is the king-elect by all the god's wills. So it is that the right hand of the king joins with a noble upstart to bring down the monarch of Burland.

To depose a king takes time, and as a rebel-in-exile in a land across the sea, Palicrovol happens into the garden of Enziquelvinisensee Evelvenin, the eldest child of a king, the Flower Princess. She is yet a girl, but Palicrovol sees in her the perfect beauty of a woman who will never tell a lie in all her life. He tells the Flower Princess that he will marry her, if he is king of Burland, when she is twenty. She agrees, and the betrothal is promised.

To take the throne, Palicrovol must kill the king. When finally Palicrovol takes the capitol of Inwit, built on the ancient city of Hart's Hope, he slays the king and publicly rapes and impregnates Nasilee's daughter so that there will be no question of his right to rule. Counseled by Zymas and the wizard Sleeve to slay the princess Asineth after the consummation, Palicrovol refuses, agreeing at least to send her away with Sleeve to guard and guard over her.

The child Asineth births is an abomination, a ten-month babe whose lifeblood portends bad magics to come. But that is all women's lore, and Sleeve is too late in the discovering; Asineth is already far down the path towards bitter vengeance. As Palicrovol at last welcomes the Flower Princess to Inwit, the wedding is interrupted by Nasilee's daughter. Asineth's strength is great enough to bind the gods, and the new king and his companions have little hope against her. She takes the body of the Flower Princess for her own, renaming herself "Beauty" and giving Palicrovol's betrothed the body of a hag. She transforms Zymas from a strong and mighty soldier to a withered weakling; the tall, albino wizard Sleeve becomes a black dwarf, Queen Beauty's fool.

Beauty banishes Palicrovol from Inwit, and there begins three centuries of pain and discomfort for the scorned king, three hundred years of bondage for Beauty's three unwilling companions. After decades of fruitless attempts to take back Inwit, Palicrovol follows a vision of the Hart to father a seventh son and tenth child on a farmer's wife. That boy, raised in love by a man not his father, will be weaned on the lore of the Sweet Sisters and the Hart, be given to priests to learn the way of God, and find his poem as Beauty's consort, the Little King. Orem will be his father's salvation and his child's damnation in a tug-of-war between a vengeful queen and bound but determined gods.

Hart's Hope owes much the Homeric tradition of heroic odyssey. Gods appear in animal and human guise, manipulating mere mortals to guide the turning of the world. Fallible tools that they are, Orem, Palicrovol and Asineth are prey to the human weaknesses that make them unwilling co-authors of the very destinies they seek to escape. In the ancient city of Hart's Hope, justice is cruel but mercy is crueler. This novel, as rich in allegory as a Greek myth, deserves to stand with the best of the rest of Orson Scott Card's fiction.

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