ISBN 1-85798-051-4 (paperback 1-85798-052-2).
First published in Great Britain 1993.
I was a little disappointed by this one. The two previous books I've read by Rusch had a strong sense of strangeness which seems to be weakened here. Maybe this is more one for the fantasy lovers than the science-fiction fans.
Pardu is conquering the desert; his soldiers fight off all resistance to build his Empire out of the tiny settlements. However, Pardu is dying, and his twin sons complicate the problem of choosing a successor. He calls in the Heart Readers to discover which son has the pure heart; but an ambitious general disarranges his plans, and it falls to the sons to find a workable solution.
The story of the two Heart Readers intertwines with the political manouvering. Heart Readers work in pairs, and must be faithful lovers in order for the magic to work. I was somewhat disappointed to find that this is the only part of the book that couldn't really happen - I wanted a bigger weirdness fix!
Another problem is that I find the chapters are too short - some of them fit on one page. This breaks up the narrative too much, in my opinion, and was constantly distracting me.
In summary, this book was OK, but I don't think I'd want to read it again.4 April 1998
See also the writeup of Heart Readers on Rusch's own homepage.
Other books I've read by Kristine Kathryn Rusch are Alien Influences, The Fey : Sacrifice, The Fey : Changeling and The Fey : Rival.