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Wen Spencer
book cover

Tinker series book 1
2003, Baen, November
Buy from Amazon.com (hardcover)

Who recommends: Linda, Lynn, Barbara, Preeti, Suzanne
Who discommends:

I just love these books set in future Pgh. :-) In TINKER, a hyperphase gate had been made by the Chinese from stolen technology. Since they didn't have all the information needed, this gate has a glitch: it does open dimensions so that Elfhome and Earth can interact, but for some reason there is an overlap in Pgh. An area of Pgh is actually on elf territory part of the time and then changes over to being back on Earth. During the changeover, Shutdown occurs, and for a short time, the inhabitants are without electricity, phones, magic, etc.

The heroine, Tinker, lives in this area and owns a salvage business. She's young (18 years old, I believe) but quite a genius. She runs her business and invents things. Just before Shutdown, she spots an elf entering her junkyard, followed by and being attacked by a couple of Wargs. She actually recognizes the Elf as Windwolf, an elf she had an encounter with in her childhood that had marked her (literally). Windwolf had put some kind of spell on her which she doesn't completely understand. She tries to save him, and in the fight for life they manage to save each other, but Windwolf is critically injured. An elf can usually heal with magic but now Shutdown occurs and magic is gone. Luckily Tinker has a few inventions that she rigs up to help save him, and a race occurs to save his life. Someone is trying to kill Windwolf, but now they've also become aware of Tinker. And this is only the beginning.

There is not a dull moment. Between learning about her past (fascinating), the past connection with Windwolf, the romance (though it happens very fast) between Tinker and Windwolf, the history of how the elves came into magic, and trying to find out who the enemy is, you are totally caught up. I highly recommend this book!!--Linda (15 Nov 03)

TINKER really pushes my buttons in a good way for the romance and the self image of the main character.

Tinker, the title character, is a very high-end genius, living her life in a near-future Pittsburgh that spends all but one day a month in "Elfland." (But the city has a low population because in the alternate "elven" world the elves have not come to the New World.)

She rescues a high-up elf (for the second time) using technology, ends up involved with him, and gets turned into an elf herself. There's a bunch of interesting intersection of biology and magic in this, and that intersection of technology and magic is what makes it so appealing to me, I think.

I could worry about some of the implications of the romance, both in terms of consent and whether Windwolf (the hero/love-interest) is sufficiently older/more powerful to make it squicky. It ended up working for me because of Tinker's overall maturity and because I think Spencer carried off making it seem like her intellect does make the playing field more level.

There is a nice mixture of additional ethnic myths, although saying more than that ends up in spoiler territory. Suffice it to say that there are "bad guys" who want to do "bad things, but they end up with sufficient nuances that they aren't generic villains cackling in the corners.

I like the Ukiah Oregon series from this author, which is pretty much straight SF with some neat concepts (also biology based - hmm), but this is much more satisfactory as an actual romance as well as fantasy/sf. It is always interesting to see what an author does with a fairly standard trope like elves.

There's a "bad government people" subplot that I found a little annoying, although the comeuppance and partial redemption of the characters was fun.

Recommended, and I'm looking forward to the sequel she is working on.--Lynn (4 Jan 04)

Ditto what everyone else has said about TINKER. Spencer has created a fascinating world that is part-time on earth and part-time in Elfland and cast a really great heroine. I never connected with the elf hero Windwolf, though, partly because the story is told by Tinker in the first person, and Windwolf remains an enigma to her.---Barbara (7 Jan 04)

Mild spoilers in my comments.

I liked it a lot. The story was energetic and fast-paced with a "oh, cool" factor throughout. Tinker, wild girl genius, was a fun character. I hope she doesn't becomes more muted in later books.

After the Ukiah Oregon books, I was surprised by the greater erotic charge in TINKER. Do you guys think she'll pursue this thing with Pony? He stole the book from WindWolf in this one, in my opinion. Heck, even the Tengu character did that. The Tinker-WindWolf romance was surprisingly without emotional depth, although tantalizing enough to keep me hooked and wanting more.

Linda, after reading the book, I realized that your reference to "Pgh" must be a local term for Pittsburgh. Based on your review, I'd honestly expected to read about a land with the unpronouncable name of Pgh. :-)

Did we find out in this book who Tinker's mother was? If not, then I see future books dealing more with Miss Tinker Bell's origins (among other things.)--Preeti (25 Jan 04)

I really like the urban elf fantasies, like WAR FOR THE OAKS, and this is a worthy addition to this subgenre. I also liked the juxtaposition of straight-on driving narrative layered with budding romances, layered with the world-building detail and enough complexity to have me scratching my head now and then along the way. I wasn't real crazy about Tinker being only eighteen, but I guess if she were much older you'd lose all that hormonal angst. Anyway, put me down as thumbs up on this one, and now I've got to go back and find this author's backlist.--Suzanne (26 Jan 04)

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