Mutant Mythmakers and a Princess Bride

The Ear, the Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer

In the year 2194, there are three Zimbabwe's. There is the Zimbabwe of the rich such as the luxurious compound of General Amadeus Matsika, the country's Chief of Security. His children, Tendai, Rita, and Kuda want for nothing. The robots take care of all their needs, and the Mellower, the house poet, makes everyone feel so much better when he sings their Praises.

In another part of the city dwells the woman who is called the She-Elephant. She has her own compound, her own kingdom, in the abandoned waste dump. She has her servants, too. Fist and Knife are good for running errands-- a little thieving here, a little kidnapping there... When they find Matsika's children by themselves in downtown Harare, the opportunity for profit is just too good to let go.

13-year-old Tendai didn't want to take his brother and sister along on his first trip into the city, but little sisters and brothers somehow always get their own way. As the eldest, he tried to be responsible for them, but who could have known that a talk with a smart-mouthed blue monkey would lead to their enslavement? The She-Elephant will take her time to find just the right buyer for the children, but while they wait they must work for their food, tunneling through the garbage to find that precious substance that no one makes anymore-- plastic!

Across town and down a junky alley, a limousine pulls up in front of The Ear, the Eye and the Arm Detective Agency. With her children missing, General Matsika's beautiful wife is determined to find them so into the limo jump the Ear whose giant ears can catch any sound, the Eye who can see far and small, and the Arm, who, besides having a long and spiderlike arms and legs, can feel everyone's emotions and sometimes knows what's going to happen.

Mutants they are and lifelong friends, all coming from the same village whose contaminated water supply led to their strange powers.

The hunt is on, and it's up to Tendai to lead his family to safety or the detectives to find them before they meet a horrible fate in the clutches of the Masks, a secret society that has sworn revenge on General Matsika. Before the story's played out, the ancient spirits of the Shona tribe will show themselves, whether on that third part of Zimbabwe, the cultural preserve called Resthaven or in the glitzy Mile-High MacIlwaine Hotel.

The Edge on the Sword by Rebecca Tingle

Flæd tried to ignore the man who pursued her. In truth, he had been behind her for all of the day, and at night he would sit outside her door. Golden-haired Flæd was accustomed to running free in the great woods with her little brother Edward, only returning to her father's stronghold to take her meals with her family and her lessons from Bishop Asser.

She loved sharing the story of the heroic warrior, Beowulf, with Edward. The both wanted to be like him, and Until her last birthday, she could do much as she pleased and get but a small scolding for being absent from family gatherings. Until her birthday, Æthelflæd had been a child and done as a child.

Now a woman, she is asked, as eldest daughter of Alfred, King of West Saxony, to accomplish an alliance with the neighboring kingdom of Mercia. She will barter her freedom, as her mother before her, for the good of the two kingdoms. With so little time left before the wedding, she wished the rough warrior would go away and leave her in peace.

But "Red" wouldn't go away. He was assigned to guard her for very good reasons, but Flæd didn't believe she was in danger. It became a game to her, to walk as far and as fast as she might, but she never succeeded in losing him until she thought of the trick with the horses. She was an expert rider, and she finally managed to elude him. She had only a few precious moments of freedom before she was taken.

She never saw the heavy sack as it descended over her head. She heard her own strangled screams as the cloth was presed firmly against her face. She struggled weakly against the deft hands that bound her arms, her ankles. Someone was wadding sacking into her mouth and pushing up her lower jaw so that almost no sound could escape her heavily muffled mouth. Soon it was all she could do to keep from suffocating.... At least two of them, she registered through her panic, taking me away ... where is Red?

This story is based on true events. The girl who came to be known as Æthelflæd of Mercia is considered the greatest woman in Old English military history, for Red did more than guard her. He became her teacher. This princess bride learned to fight with a sword and lead men into battle against the Danish invaders. She is still remembered as Famossima Regina Saxonum-- "most renowned queen of the Saxons."