"Deeply satisfying...succeeds on a grand scale...best of all is the language....Hopkinson's narrative voice has a way of getting under the skin."--The New York Times Book Review
"Caribbean patois adorns this novel with graceful rhythms...Beneath it lie complex, clearly evoked characters, haunting descriptions of exotic planets, and a stirring story...[This book] ought to elevate Hopkinson to star status." --Seattle Times
It's Carnival time and the Caribbean-colonized planet of Toussaint is celebrating with music, dance, and pageantry. Masked "Midnight Robbers" waylay revelers with brandished weapons and spellbinding words. To young Tan-Tan, the Robber Queen is simply a favorite costume to wear at the festival--until her power-corrupted father commits an unforgiveable crime.
Suddenly, both father and daughter are thrust into the brutal world of New Half-Way Tree. Here monstrous creatures from folklore are real, and the humans are violent outcasts in the wilds. Tan-Tan must reach into the heart of myth and become the Robber Queen herself. For only the Robber Queen's legendary powers can save her life . . . and set her free.
The sounds and rhythms of the Caribbean and Carnival suffuse Hopkinson's second novel (after Brown Girl in the Ring). On the Carib-colonized planet of Toussaint, Antonio Habib, the scheming, philandering mayor of Cockpit County, murders his wife's lover in a rigged duel and must then flee his high-tech planet, taking with him only his young daughter, Tan-Tan. The pair end up on New Half-Way Tree, Toussaint's alternate-universe twin, a primitive and dangerous world inhabited primarily by Toussaint's exiled criminal class and the douen, an alien race reminiscent of creatures from Caribbean folklore. There, Antonio's life lacks purpose, and although he remarries, he gradually degenerates into an angry, sexually predatory drunk. Growing to adulthood, Tan-Tan is deeply scarred by her father's assaults on her. Eventually she kills him in self-defense and, pregnant with his child, flees into the forbidding bush that surrounds their small settlement. Tan-Tan is kept on the run by Antonio's jealous widow, seeking vengeance for her husband's death. Hiding among the trees, Tan-Tan learns the secrets of the douen and gradually transforms into another figure out of Caribbean folklore, the Midnight Robber, who dresses in black, spouts poetry, steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Hopkinson's rich and complex Carib English can be hard to follow at times, but it is nonetheless quite beautiful; her young protagonist, at once violent and vulnerable, is extremely well drawn. Both Toussaint, a world almost awash in nanotechnology, and the more primitive New Half-Way Tree are believable, lushly detailed worlds. Like its predecessor, this novel bears evidence that Hopkinson owns one of the more important and original voices in SF. FYI: Brown Girl in the Ring won a Locus Award for Best First SF Novel.
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Nalo Hopkinson has crafted a magical, mesmerizing, poetic modern day folktale, pulsing with life, heartbreak, beauty, and heat. Her language is utterly original, weaving her tale with a propulsive, dreamlike force. Unforgettable.