Hand of Prophecy by Severna Park

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Hand of Prophecy

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Frenna is a slave in a society where all slaves are injected with a virus. Once infected, the virus keeps slaves in perfect health, even healing wounds instantly. After twenty years, however, the slaves “fail,” dying a horrible death from cellular damage. When Frenna discovers Virevir, an antidote which neutralizes the virus, freeing the slave, she sees a way out.

Civil war between the Faraqui and Emirate armies threatens Frenna’s planet. Planning to go offworld, Frenna escapes, only to be recaptured by a Faraqui trader. When Frenna spurns his sexual advances, he sells her to a gladiatorial arena on a distant planet.

Frenna serves as medic at the arena, either reviving or euthanizing wounded gladiators before they fail. But she is not welcomed by the former prophetess Troah, who controls many fighters with her dubious promise of life after failing. Troah uses enhancing drugs and hypnotic powers to push them past their failure point, but her methods are risky. She immediately tries to dominate Frenna when she learns about Virevir.

Meanwhile, Frenna befriends Hallie, a gladiator with whom she shares her secret. Hallie shows Frenna a secret passage out of the arena. Since it is in Troah’s room, the three form a tense alliance. Frenna doses Troah with Virevir so she can go offworld, with Hallie and Frenna masquerading as her two slaves. More Virevir is cultured from Troah’s blood, and all the slaves are freed as the civil war ends.

HAND OF PROPHECY, Severna Park’s second novel, benefits from an unusual plot and neat prose, but its graphic descriptions of lesbian sex might limit the novel’s appeal.