BOOK REVIEW: Mistwalker by Denise Lopes Heald

In an effort to breathe new life into old books, here, the first in a series, are book reviews written in the 1990’s. What would be more appropriate than a novel from Del Rey’s Discovery line.Editor’s note: This is the only book by Denise Lopes Heald. It can be found in some used books stores or online at Amazon, eBay or other online used book dealers.

“Because something new is always worth the risk.”

This is the quote from Del Rey’s Discovery line. It’s a project that boasts to help readers “experience the wonder of discovery with Del Rey’s newest authors.” A worthwhile endeavour, and one most people would expel a slight harrumph at it lofty goals. With good reason. In these days of ‘conglomeration’, and (publishing) houses being run by MBA’s, chances are rarely taken on new authors. “If its not a bankable name, it ain’t worth the ink to print” seems to be the motto decried at stockholder’s meetings. (Or the ‘new’ author is subjected to the worst possible contract, barely making them any money on their own work.) So, dear publisher, don’t mind us being slightly skeptical.

Yet Mistwalker is a refreshing change. Denise Lopes Heald has had a few SF and Fantasy stories published. Although Mistwalker is her debut novel, it is packed with incredible story potential. This book is not without its faults, but they are easily overlooked as the author spins words and crafts written pictures with the skill of a veteran. Most of the problems with the book should have been caught by an editor and the text has rough spots because of it. Mistwalker, however is still a wonderful read.

It’s the tale of an off-world political fugitive and a local working stiff. Its romance is handled with panache, Sci-Fi (element) handled with technical care, and (the) ecological suspense dealt with in an even manner. (The latter storyline – however – is tumbled out haphazardly and not expounded upon with due effort.) It’s about Meesha Raschad, a tough off-planeteer who has a reputation of surviving where most “newbies” would have died, and the local women he meets up with. Their lives intermingle in a widening path of mismanaged romances, mystery pasts and political intrigue.

Heald writes in an interesting style, mixing local and alien languages with familiar templates. She skirts the fringe of ‘cyber’-words (references that are made up to fit the story and make it sufficiently alien) and walks the fine line of nonsensical ramblings. Some sections (of the novel) infuriate with their unusual references, yet pique the interests with their mutations of the usual. As she matures, and perhaps finds a better editor, Denise Lopes Heald has the talent to see her into the next age of SF. (This latter being where all the current authors have faded into the background.)

A solid thumbs up for Mistwalker. And a hope that Del Rey‘s future discoveries will have an equal amount or more of the abilities Heald shows here.

paperback edition
Publisher: Del Rey
Date: July 1994
ISBN: 0-345-38890-9