Publisher: Berkley Sensations
Publish Date: 2003
How I got this book: Purchased
The story of a man without psi powers on a world where they’re prized. An outcast, Ruis must overcome all society to survive, pursue his passion for restoring ancient Earth technology, and win his love — Judge Ailim D’SilverFir.
This blurb came from the author’s website here.
I absolutely adore Ms Owens writing. Her lyrical way with words always carries me off on a journey that when I finish, I look up and I’m amazed to see that time has passed and my muscles are stiff since I hadn’t moved except to turn the page (swipe the screen/tap the button). Given how much I enjoy reading her books, I have been sadly remiss in reviewing them *adds to my list of retro review authors* so I was pleased when our Fantasy Celebration gave me an excuse. I decided pretty easily that I wanted to review one of Ms Owens’ Celta books but I couldn’t decide which one so I put out a call for help via twitter. @c2s answered and recommended Heart Thief as her favorite so I decided that was a good reason for me to re-read and then write this review.
Heart Thief is the second of the Celta series following Heart Mate. The planet of Celta was settled by people who came from earth hundreds of generations ago. They managed to land on Celta and survive. As part of adapting to Celta, possessing psi or Flair has become an integral part of the Celtan culture. Everyone who isn’t a gang member living Downwind, is tested when their Flair settles down. The amount and type of Flair determines the field that person will enter along with their status in society. Those with great Flair become Nobles, receive a regular payment from the government, and also have certain obligations they are required to meet using their Flair.
Ruis Elder is a null — he does not have any Flair and as a matter of fact his presence actually negates any Flair around him. After being cast out of his family by his uncle, who is now the head of the household, Ruis scrambles to make a hidden living. He played a key role in Heart Mate and in fact as a result of his actions he was arrested and brought to trial for thievery. While waiting for his hearing he encountered Ailim D’DilverFir, a Judge who had recently become the head of her family. Ailim was there not as a judge but to ask for a loan so she wouldn’t have to sell her ancestral home and lands. Ailim is strongly emphatic so she has to always maintain her mental shields against everyone’s random thoughts and feelings. Not only does she find a blissful mental peace around Ruis since her Flair does not work, but she also treats him like he is a valuable member of society instead of someone to be despised.
After their initial meeting Ruis continues to stay hidden in Druida City and find opportunities to meet with Ailim. Gradually his time with her starts to heal the terrible mental and emotional wounds he suffered during his family rejection and his abuse by his uncle. Ailim values the very thing that made Ruis outcast, and luxuriates in the presence of a person who just wants and values her as herself. Their mutual appreciation of each other doesn’t mean that they are always in perfect agreement, but their disagreements never dropped to the level of insults.
Ruis faces danger from violating his sentence of banishment on the pain of death and his vengeful uncle who wanted the death sentence. Ailim also faces danger from her family’s resistance to her every attempt to financially rescue them and because someone wants her dead. As Ailim continues to officially probe in the circumstances surrounding Ruis’ life and very suspicious lack of records she attracts more attention from his uncle, which is NOT a good thing. Ailim and Ruis’ relationship grows slowly as they get to know each other and deal with the circumstances their families have created. The very gradual building of their relationship was complete with misgivings, second thoughts, and the requirement to trust each other with their lives. As they tentatively reached out towards each other and looked forward to their stolen moments together my heart melted.
I really enjoyed watching Ailim and Ruis work through their individual problems as well as those caused by their relationship. Each had to decide if they were going to risk what they currently had for what they could have. Along the way glimpses of the bigger Celta history and social organization are provided as Ruis and Ailim move through their everyday lives. Not to mention the importance of pets not just for emotional wellbeing but also for social status. Some of the funniest scenes involve the Fams as they are called.
While this isn’t my personal favorite of Ms Owen’s Celta books by maybe a quarter of a grade Heart Thief is still one that I enjoy reading and re-reading. Each time I am sucked completely back into the world of Celta. I give Heart Thief an A-
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