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Voices    by Ursula K. Le Guin order for
by Ursula K. Le Guin
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

Seventeen-year-old Mermer has grown up in a city occupied by the Alds Army. The city of Ansul was known before the occupation as Ansul the Wise and Beautiful for its great university and culture. Now it is a ruined city whose citizens are still held captive by an army that has grown tired of maintaining this distant garrison and never seeing their families.

When Mermer was little more than a baby, the Alds conquered Ansul, looting and trashing the city. Mermer and her mother survived in a hidden room at the house of Galva. The hidden room holds the Waylord's books. Sulter Galva, the Waylord, is the head of the impoverished house of Galva where Mermer lives.

The Alds believe that books and reading and writing are evil. To own a book is punishable by death. They destroyed all the books they found in Ansul and tortured Sulter Galver, the Waylord, believing he would lead them to others. His legs and hands were broken and deliberately not set, so that they never healed. Eventually the Alds allowed him to crawl back to the house of Galva.

Since her mother died, Mermer is the only person besides the Waylord who knows of the room with books. She keeps her secret, but finds the room soothing and visits there regularly. The Waylord doesn't know Mermer goes to the hidden room until they accidentally meet there. He is pleased to be able to teach her reading and have someone enjoy the forbidden books.

Mermer does the shopping for the house. She dresses as a boy so she won't be noticed by the soldiers. One day while shopping Mermer meets Gry and her pet lion. The lion spooks one of the soldier's horses and Mermer manages to grab his rein. Orrec and his wife Gry have arrived in Ansul at the request of the Alds. The Alds admire storytellers and Orrec is one of the greatest. His reputation is known throughout the land. Fascinated by Gry and her lion, Mermer takes them home and the Waylord invites them to stay while they are in the city. With Orrec and Gry comes the possibility of revenge on the Alds.

Filled with frightening parallels to today's world, Voices never preaches. Mermer is a strong heroine and the ending is full of hope.

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