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The Gypsy by Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm (aka Robin Hobb)

01/10/2009. Contributed by Jill Roberts

Buy The Gypsy in the USA - or Buy The Gypsy in the UK

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pub: Forge/TOR. 272 page enlarged paperback. Price: $13.95 (US), $19.95 (CAN). ISBN: 0-765-31192-5).

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'The Gypsy' begins with a man walking down the street in a seedy, run-down part of town. The man is a gypsy whose name is Cigany, although doesn't remember how he got there or who he is, but does know that the two men in the patrol car are looking at him so on instinct, he ducks into a bar. The gypsy tells the bar man not to write the letter asking his daughter not to call for Christmas dinner. The bar man is confused as he had not spoken of it. Outside again, the patrol cops catch up with the gypsy.

A false description has been given out of a liquor store robber who shot the owner that matches Cigany. The cops, Stepovich and his hot-headed, rookie partner Durrand, pick up the gypsy although Stepovich feels the arrest isn't right as Cigany did not have a gun on him, only a knife with a strange looking handle.

This is where the world of the gypsy comes into contact with the world of the patrol cops and us, the reader. Cigany had become separated from his brothers. A demon known as The Fair Lady has cast a veil over Cigany's mind so that he had forgotten his clan have come here to do battle with her.

On a hunch, Stepovich asks his old retired partner Ed to look into the gypsy's history to try and find some answers. As the story progresses, we learn more about Cigany and his brothers, Stepovich, Ed and Durrand. Stepovich finds out that his daughter Laurie has been drawn into the Fair Lady's web by one of her human servants. This is one of many events that conspire to bring all the players together for the final showdown.

Stepovich and his daughter Laurie come from an old Hungarian family and are both changed by this experience. Laurie now spends time with the old gypsy woman that had removed the veil from Cigany's mind and was also a prisoner of the Fair Lady. Stepovtch also develops a more grudging respect for his rookie partner, Durrand.

This story started out as a very confusing tale concerning two separate worlds of 'reality'. Slowly, as events unfold the strangers purpose becomes clearer, Cigany and his companions meet and mix with a handful of people from our reality and do battle with a very ancient and powerful enemy. An experience that changes everyone involved.

I was able to immerse myself in the ancient magic and animal symbolism of the Cigany's reality, which made a fine contrast to the grim reality of the seedy streets of the patrol cops. An archetypal story of the war between good and evil with symbolism based on old Hungarian folk tales that become more meaningful as you read through the book.

Definitely a story to get your teeth into. A mystery rich in fantasy yet it also has its feet in reality. It is an unusual blending of modern crime-detection and 'old knowledge'. I found the mix worked very well, making it more of an intriguing mystery to untangle, rather than just another modern-day crime story. As the myths were Hungarian folk tales, they were unfamiliar and so not jarring. There have been s-o-o-o many re-workings of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, that this story made quite a refreshing change.

Jill Roberts

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