Juno, Nov 2007, $6.99
Amberlight is a fairly populated city with a great amount of land and an even greater amount of wealth due to other nations buying slates of qherrique, a pearl gray stone found only in the city. Rulers use the precious stone to control the population of a country; however the power is finite so that the merchants have repeat business. The city is ruled by the Thirteen Houses which consist of women only as only females are in positions of authority and leadership.
Tellurith, head of an influential House, finds an unconscious obviously raped male. She takes him into her living quarters where he regains consciousness with a foreign salute although he has no memory as to who he is. Tel demands he confess who he is spying for; as he begins to recall things, she assumes he is a mercenary sent from an enemy who wants to control qherrique. Improbably they fall in love and for a few months Tel is happy. Her contentment is shattered the night the qherrique speaks to him and he vanishes probably to betray her to his employers.
AMBERLIGHT is a character driven fantasy that examines the culture of a matriarchal society in order to raise the issue of selling weapons of mass destruction (qherrique) to unscrupulous abusive rulers (foreign military sales to deadly despots like Hussein during the Reagan era or the present Mid East plan). The powerful plot also looks closely at the impact of rape with the twist that the male is the victim. Sylvia Kelso provides a colorfully refreshing tale starring two likable fully developed lead protagonists. Perhaps the only negative is the mystery of qherrique which remains for a future story.