Library Journal Ned Marriner joins his father, the famous photographer Edward Marriner, for an extended stay in Provence, an area of France steeped in both Celtic and Roman history. Then, a visit to Saint-Sauveur Cathedral in the town of Aix brings Ned together with Kate Wenger, an American exchange student, and a man who appears to be much, much older than one would think-and both Ned and Kate become caught up in another time where the reenactment of an old story draws the two young people into a cycle of myths and legends in which truth, love, courage, and sacrifice are the only things that matter. An explorer of history and myths, Kay (The Last Light of the Sun) has a special affinity for the people behind the larger-than-life legends that persist through time. His latest fantasy blends time and place in a crossing of worlds and universal truths. Highly recommended. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Kay (The Last Light of the Sun) departs from his usual historical fantasies to connect the ancient, violent history of France to the present day in this entrancing contemporary fantasy. Fifteen-year-old Canadian Ned Marriner accompanies his famous photographer father, Edward, on a shoot at Aix-en-Provence's Saint-Saveur Cathedral while his physician mother, Meghan, braves the civil war zone in Sudan with Doctors Without Borders. As Ned explores the old cathedral, he meets Kate Wenger, a geeky but attractive American girl who's a walking encyclopedia of history. In the ancient baptistry, the pair are surprised by a mysterious, scarred man wielding a knife who warns that they've "blundered into a corner of a very old story. It is no place for children." But Ned and Kate can't avoid becoming dangerously entangled in a 2,500-year-old love triangle among mythic figures. Kay also weaves in a secondary mystery about Ned's family and his mother's motivation behind her risky, noble work. The author's historical detail, evocative writing and fascinating characters-both ancient and modern-will enthrall mainstream as well as fantasy readers. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Book list In Kay's eagerly awaited new book set mostly in twenty-first-century Aix-en-Provence, 15-year-old Ned Marriner is spending a spring vacation with his celebrated photographer father during a shoot of the Cathedral of Saint-Sauveur. His mother, a physician with Doctors without Borders, is in the Sudan, so Ned and Dad are extremely worried. Exploring Saint-Sauveur, Ned meets American exchange-student Kate Wenger, who knows a lot about the history of Aix. The two surprise a knife-carrying, scar-faced stranger in the cathedral, who tells them, I think you ought to go. . . . You have blundered into the corner of a very old story. Ned and Kate, then the rest of his family, including the aunt and uncle from England and his mother, are drawn into an ancient conflict with the shades of Celtic spirits. Kay characterizes Ned superbly as he matures amid fantastic circumstances until he is able to make the final sacrifice; reader disbelief is unimperiled, and psychobabble unindulged. Outstanding characters, folklore, and action add up to another Kay must-read. --Frieda Murray Copyright 2007 Booklist
Publishers Weekly Latro, the amnesiac visionary hero of Soldier of the Mist and Soldier of Arete, reaches the Egypt known to Herodotus in Wolfe's splendid historical fantasy. Wounded in battle, Latro has only one day's worth of memory and must write down his experiences so he will know who he is every morning. In compensation, he's able to see gods and supernatural beings and does not distinguish them from the mortals around him. Gaps in the record and Wolfe's Haggardesque device of the manuscript found in a jar make Latro the most postmodern of unreliable narrators, aware that he's writing a text, uncertain of its meaning and unable to keep its entirety in his head. For all Wolfe assures us that ancient Egypt is not mysterious, Latro's journey makes up a leisurely, dreamlike, haunted house of a novel, which brilliantly immerses the reader in the belief systems of the time, drifting in and out of the everyday and spirit worlds until the two become indistinguishable. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Book list The third novel about Spartan soldier Latro, cursed to forget each day's events, which necessitates faithful diary keeping (hence, the form the Latro novels assume), takes him to Egypt. Wolfe again makes his uneducated protagonist credibly eloquent about what happens and whom he encounters, which is particularly important here because Egypt is the classical world's California, where anything can happen and usually does. The long wait for the latest Latro has been well rewarded. --Roland Green Copyright 2006 Booklist
Library Journal Cursed with the inability to remember his words or actions from day to day, the soldier named Latro (or Lucius or Lewqys) finds himself in Egypt, the guest of a Phoenician sea captain who has agreed to take him on a voyage into his past. Visited regularly by visions of gods and holding on to a sense of continuity by keeping a diary he reads every morning, Latro searches for a way to lift his curse and remember his past so that he can live a normal life. Continuing the story begun in Soldier of the Mist and Soldier of Arete, Wolfe brings his stylistic excellence and imaginative genius to this tale of a man who daily sees the world made new and who witnesses magic and miracles at every turn. A welcome addition from one of the genre's most literate and thoughtful authors; highly recommended. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Adult/High School-This delightful first novel exerts a strong and seductive pull on readers who might otherwise balk at its length. Like Philip Pullman's work, it is dark, deep, and challenging. It compares dead-on with Jane Austen's novels, and YAs who have underappreciated her wit may find it delicious when applied to magicians. Clarke even tosses in a bit of Dickens and Hardy-with great characterization, subplots, and a sense of fate bearing down hard on us. At stake is the future of English magic, which has nearly dwindled to all theory by the early 1800s, after centuries of prominence. When the book opens, only the reclusive and jealous Gilbert Norrell is practicing. Enter Jonathan Strange, a natural who has never studied magic formally. Norrell resents, then adopts Strange as a pupil whose growth he insists on controlling until the two come to the impasse that nearly leads them to destroy one another. Strange champions the 12th century's "Raven King" as the greatest magician in English history and hopes to summon him from Faerie, an alternate world. Norrell is determined to erase both from English memory-to hide the fact that he himself made a bargain with a fairy that has cost three people their lives, though their hearts go on dismally beating. Expertly written and imagined, the book is a feast for fans of fantasy, historical novels, or simply fabulously engrossing reads.-Emily Lloyd, formerly at Rehoboth Beach Public Library, DE Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Book list It's surprising that this first novel works at all. Readers have to accept an especially fanciful premise but, as it quickly becomes obvious, acceptance presents no difficulty. This novel took 10 years to research and write, according to publicity material; for readers at least, the author's arduous task results in a smashing success--it's an exceptionally compelling, brilliantly creative, and historically fine-tuned piece of work. The brilliance of the novel lies in how Clarke so completely and believably creates a world within a world: the outside world being early-nineteenth-century England, as Napoleon the eagle looms over all of Europe; the inner world being the community of English magicians. At the story's outset, magic in the land is moribund; magicians, who convene in various convocations, did not want to see magic done; they only wished to read about it in books. But circumstances arise that cause magic again to become manifest, not simply discussed as an academic subject; this resurrection has extensive consequences for the heretofore stately state of magic in the English realm. History and fantasy form a beautiful partnership in this detailed, authentic, and heartfelt novel, which is part fairy tale and part epic. The inner world it creates is completely furnished and credible; the outside world is exact in its accuracy. Written in a style correlative to the writing and speaking of the time, which the reader will come to find quite mellifluous, this novel is, in a word, charming. Comparisons to Harry Potter are inevitable but not distracting, for this novel stands on its own. --Brad Hooper Copyright 2004 Booklist
Publishers Weekly The drawing room social comedies of early 19th-century Britain are infused with the powerful forces of English folklore and fantasy in this extraordinary novel of two magicians who attempt to restore English magic in the age of Napoleon. In Clarke's world, gentlemen scholars pore over the magical history of England, which is dominated by the Raven King, a human who mastered magic from the lands of faerie. The study is purely theoretical until Mr. Norrell, a reclusive, mistrustful bookworm, reveals that he is capable of producing magic and becomes the toast of London society, while an impetuous young aristocrat named Jonathan Strange tumbles into the practice, too, and finds himself quickly mastering it. Though irritated by the reticent Norrell, Strange becomes the magician's first pupil, and the British government is soon using their skills. Mr. Strange serves under Wellington in the Napoleonic Wars (in a series of wonderful historical scenes), but afterward the younger magician finds himself unable to accept Norrell's restrictive views of magic's proper place and sets out to create a new age of magic by himself. Clarke manages to portray magic as both a believably complex and tedious labor, and an eerie world of signs and wonders where every object may have secret meaning. London politics and talking stones are portrayed with equal realism and seem indisputably part of the same England, as signs indicate that the Raven King may return. The chock-full, old-fashioned narrative (supplemented with deft footnotes to fill in the ignorant reader on incidents in magical history) may seem a bit stiff and mannered at first, but immersion in the mesmerizing story reveals its intimacy, humor and insight, and will enchant readers of fantasy and literary fiction alike. Agent, Jonny Geller. (Oct.) Forecast: A massive push by Bloomsbury has made this one of the most anticipated novels of the season. It's convenient to pigeonhole it as Harry Potter for grownups-and grown-up readers of J.K. Rowling will enjoy it-but its deep grounding in history gives it gravitas as well as readability. 200,000 first printing; rights sold in 14 countries. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Book list Walton says this book is the result of wondering what a world would be like if the axioms of the sentimental Victorian novel were inescapable laws of biology. It is also something truly different in the line of the novel. After a father dies, his children must deal with the circumstances of his death. One son, a parson, agonizes over his sire's deathbed confession. Another starts a court case to gain the inheritance. One daughter must choose between her family of origin and her husband. Another falls in love, but her course does not run smoothly thereafter. So what's different about all that? Well, everyone in the story is a dragon, and in their society, children eat their deceased parents, and the stronger eat the weaker, for only by eating the flesh of its kind can a dragon achieve full strength and power. So therein lies the difference, and the distinction of a little masterpiece of originality. --Frieda Murray Copyright 2003 Booklist
Publishers Weekly Dragons ritually eat dragons in order to gain strength and power in Walton's enthralling new fantasy (after 2002's The Prize in the Game), set amid a hierarchical society that includes a noble ruling class, an established church, servants and retainers. On the death of the dragon Bon Agornin, his parson son Penn, one of five siblings (two male and three female), declares, "We must now partake of his remains, that we might grow strong with his strength, remembering him always." But Bon's greedy son-in-law, Illustrious Daverak, consumes more than his fair share of the departed dragon, setting off a chain of unexpected and, at times, calamitous events for each sibling. Avan, the younger son, decides to litigate for compensation. One unmarried daughter, on moving in with the married sister and Daverak, discovers a house filled with injustice, while the other unmarried daughter goes off with Penn and falls in love. Full of political intrigue and romance, this provocative read sets the stage for further adventures in a world that, as the author admits in her prefatory note, "owes a lot to Anthony Trollope's Framley Parsonage." (Nov. 19) FYI: In 2002, Walton received a John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal The deathbed confession of Bon Agornin places his heirs in a quandary as the five siblings maneuver for position and power within the family. What makes Walton's tale of dynastic intrigue unique is that the individuals are all dragons, with their own customs and traditions-such as the practice of consuming the bodies of their dead and killing their weaker children. Walton (The King's Piece) combines delicacy and savagery in a finely told tale suitable for most fantasy collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal Swept up in the Rev. Elias Fitcher's apocalyptic predictions, the Charter family moves to upstate New York to await the final days as the gatekeepers of Fitcher's mansion, Harbinger House. When Fitcher chooses Vernelia as his bride, younger sisters Amy and Kate envy her happiness until events hint at a sinister purpose behind Fitcher's marriage and an even darker secret at the heart of Harbinger House. Frost's contribution to the popular "Fairy Tale" series, created and edited by Terry Windling, takes a unique approach to the horrific tale of Bluebeard, setting a seemingly cautionary tale about the dangers of curiosity against the messianic fervor of the mid-19th century. The author of The Pure Cold Light blends dark fantasy and social commentary in an intriguing tale that belongs in most libraries. Highly recommended. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly In the latest addition to the Fairy Tale Series created by Terri Windling, fantasy author Frost (Tain; Lyrec) provides a fresh and highly readable spin on the classic Bluebeard tale, setting his version in New York's Finger Lakes district during the 1830s. Charismatic preacher Elias Fitcher, the Bluebeard figure, has set up a utopian community that prays and works while awaiting the end of the world prophesied for 1843. Into this hotbed of religious fervor comes the Charter family from the nearby town of Jeckyll's Glen. The father and stepmother succumb to Fitcher's mesmerizing preaching, but it is the three daughters-Vernelia, Amy and Catherine-who listen to household spirits and end up, each in turn, marrying Fitcher, then vanishing, except for Catherine, the youngest. In order to survive, Catherine must use her wits and the understanding passed on from her sisters. Exploring such adult themes as lust, masochism and desire, Frost neatly counterbalances the underlying threads of wifely curiosity and disobedience with the growing awareness of true evil in Fitcher, the elements that have made the fairy tale such a timeless story. Some readers may want to save Windling's introduction, which traces the historical legend through its roots in folklore to the narrative of Frenchman Charles Perrault, for last, in order to enjoy the novel for its own sake. Agent, Martha Millard. (Dec. 1) FYI: Windling is the co-editor with Ellen Datlow of The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (Forecasts, July 29). Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Book list In this superb retelling of Bluebeard, the bloody essentials remain intact: a wealthy man with a string of former wives, a mysterious key the latest wife is forbidden to use, a room with a lock the key fits into, the young wife's overwhelming curiosity and horrifying discovery, and the dispatching of the wicked husband. The main difference is Frost's chillingly realistic Bluebeard figure. Fitcher is the megalomaniacal, charismatic leader of a religious cult in the early 1800s--a cruel, controlling serial murderer who has seduced hordes with his last-days doctrine, including the stepmother of three beautiful daughters. Her religious fervor leads her to take her family to the Fitcher's secluded haven, where a community of true believers awaits the last day. As soon as he sees them, Fitcher knows he must have all three daughters and stepmother, too. The story proceeds to its bloody end by means of a wonderfully updated plot and intriguing details. Well-researched and extremely well-written, including the fascinating introduction on the origins of the Bluebeard tale. A ripping good read. --Paula Luedtke
Book list The sorcerer Alder makes his way to Ged's remote home on Gont. Alder seeks relief from nightly consuming dreams about being called to "the wall of stones," where hordes of souls cry out for help in ending their suffering. These dreams are but one harbinger of coming change. Another is the reappearance of dragons, once compatible with humans, to reclaim their former lands. Ged sends Alder to Havnor, where Tenar and Tehanu have been called by King Lebannen to advise him about the dragons as well as the princess unwelcomely sent to be his bride. In time, Tehanu, the dragon Orm Irian (whose story is told in "Dragonfly," which concludes Tales from Earthsea [BKL Mr 1 01]), the king, Alder, Tenar, and the princess all figure in righting ancient wrongs and mending the earth. Steeped in Earthsea lore and featuring familiar characters as well as dramatic action, the first full-length Earthsea novel since Tehanu (1990) will leave its readers wanting yet another. The ongoing Earthsea saga began as children's literature years ago but now moves resolutely into the purview of adults, perhaps because the very well written Earthsea books have long appealed to all ages. Certainly, whatever their ages, its fans will rejoice in revisiting Earthsea. --Sally Estes
Publishers Weekly What a year it's been for Le Guin. First, there was The Telling, the widely praised new novel in her Hainish sequence, followed by Tales from Earthsea, a collection of recent short fiction in her other major series. Now she returns with a superb novel-length addition to the Earthsea universe, one that, once again, turns that entire series on its head. Alder, the man who unwittingly initiates the transformation of Earthsea, is a humble sorcerer who specializes in fixing broken pots and repairing fence lines, but when his beloved wife, Lily, dies, he is inconsolable. He begins to dream of the land of the dead and sees both Lily and other shades reaching out to him across the low stone wall that separates them from the land of the living. Soon, more general signs and portents begin to disturb Earthsea. The dragons break their long-standing truce and begin to move east. The new ruler of the Kargad Lands sends his daughter west in an attempt to wed her to King Lebannen. Even Ged, the former archmage, now living in peaceful, self-imposed exile on Gont, starts to have disturbing dreams. In Tehanu (1990), the fourth book in the series, Le Guin rethought the traditional connection between gender and magic that she had assumed in the original Earthsea trilogy. In her new novel, however, she reconsiders the relationship between magic and something even more basic: life and death itself. This is not what 70-year-old writers of genre fantasy are supposed to do, but then, there aren't many writers around like Le Guin. (Oct. 1) FYI: In addition to five Hugo and five Nebula awards, Le Guin has won a National Book Award, the Kafka Award and a Pushcart Prize. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal A village mender's love for his dead wife leads him in his dreams to the dry lands of the dead where a kiss from his wife's spirit begins a chain of events that shakes the foundations of the realms of Earthsea. Le Guin's first Earthsea novel in ten years blends old themes and familiar people from previous series books with new characters and fresh stories, demonstrating once again the power of storytelling to transform the known into the unknown and the ordinary into the extraordinary. Le Guin remains a master of subtlety and grace as she finds new and surprising ways to express deep truths cloaked in the trappings of fantasy. A priority purchase for libraries of all sizes. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/00.] Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal In the author's first "Earthsea" novel in ten years, the sorcerer Alder is troubled by the dead and must appeal to the former archmage for help. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Powers (The Anubis Gates, etc.), known hitherto as an expert fantasy writer, has created a mind-bending mix of genres here, placing his gifts for extreme speculative fiction in service of a fantastical spy story involving rivalries between no fewer than four intelligence services: British, French, Russian and American. In 1963, Andrew Hale is summoned to reenter the secret service. He has a past embracing anti-Nazi activities in Occupied ParisÄwhere he fell in love with Elena, a Spanish-born Communist operativeÄand a spectacularly unsuccessful mission on Mount Ararat in 1948, the purpose of which only gradually becomes clear. Powers posits that the mountain, as the speculative last home of Noah's Ark, is also the dwelling place of many djinns, supernatural beings that often take the form of rocks in the Arabian deserts. The father of British spy Kim Philby, a noted Arabist, had been a keen observer of these phenomena and taught his son about them. Now it seems that a supernatural power, manifesting itself as an old woman, is safeguarding the Soviet Union, and if fragments of a destroyed djinn can be introduced into Moscow, they could destroy her protection and make the Soviet Union susceptible to normal human laws. This is Hale's mission. In 1948 it failed, and most of his commando force was destroyed. On his return 15 years later, with Philby, Hale succeeds in shooting fragments of djinn into Philby, who then returns to Moscow. Upon Philby's death many years later, the Soviet Union duly collapses. The styles of spy fiction, with dense counterplotting and extremes of caution, and the spectacular supernatural scenes simply do not blend. It's all offbeat and daringly imaginative, but ultimately rather foolish entertainment. (Jan. 9) Forecast: This original novel, despite its strengths, is unlikely to satisfy fully fans of either spycraft or fantasyÄand such is the pitfall of genre-bending. A 6-city author tour plus vigorous promotion online and off could give the book some turbo power, though. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal As a young man, Alan Hale, working for British Intelligence, failed to stop a mysterious Soviet mission on Mt. Ararat and re-entered civilian life. Twenty years later, he must return to Turkey to accomplish the mission that has haunted him since the end of World War II. Powers (Earthquake Weather), known for his complex fantasy tales, here turns in a classic spy novel with a supernatural twist that ties Lawrence of Arabia to the fall of the Iron Curtain. Fans of John le Carr will appreciate the authentic period detail, meticulous descriptions of the business of espionage, and portraits of actual spies, such as Kim Philby; others will enjoy the suspense and chilling atmosphere of Cold War antics, as well as Powers's intricate chronology and plotting. [The publisher is marketing this as Powers's mainstream breakout novel.DEd.]DDevon Thomas, Hass Assoc., Ann Arbor, MI Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal The coming of the rains to California's mission country releases a torrent of unusual activities surrounding a century-old mystery. Photographer Phil Ainsworth finds his life altered by the adoption of his late sister's child and the legacy she brings with her. As ghosts and strangers from the past seek redress for old grievances, a young girl's life hinges on the possession of a strange crystal and a magical well. The author of Winter Tides continues to display an uncanny talent for low-key, off-kilter drama, infusing the modern world with a supernatural tint. Blaylock's evocative prose and studied pacing make him one of the most distinctive contributors to American magical realism. Recommended for most libraries. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly The central conceit of this elegant, accomplished contemporary ghost story is that fuentesÄsprings in which children have been ritually drownedÄare portals of inexact time travel. A byproduct of the ritual, and of time-traveling, is that memory is cast off in the form of a crystal stone, which allows its holder to experience the cast-off memory, which "might be transferred to living flesh." Hale Appleton, leader of the Societas Fraternia, a spiritualist cult, creates one such crystal in 1884. The stone is then stolen, and pursued to the present day. Timelines and characters overlap here. Scenes from previous centuries take place on the periphery of the present story line, wherein Phil Ainsworth, an insular photographer who lives in Southern California, where Appleton made his sacrifice, gains custody of his niece. People from the past and present converge on Ainsworth in an attempt to get the crystal, or to block the portalÄa well on his propertyÄfrom being neutralized. Ambitious plotting and characterization augment Blaylock's (Winter Tide) lush language (ripples in a well "cast a hundred shifting shadows... crisscrossing in geometric confusion"). This is one ghostly tale that stands on very solid ground. (Aug.) FYI: Blaylock has received two World Fantasy Awards, one for best short fiction ("Paper Dragons," 1986) and one for best short story ("Thirteen Phantasms," 1997). Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Book list Blaylock continues to extend his range, this time with a novel of quiet--but not entirely psychological--horror. In southern California, underground aquifers may lie hidden for years, and in a rainy season, vanished pools and springs may suddenly reappear or even flood. One such pool turns out to hold more than water. Those who wade into it may thereafter wade out of their own proper time and not always be lucky enough to ever wade back. Inevitably, once what is happening by accident is understood, the foolhardy and the corrupt try to use the pool deliberately, with lethal results for themselves and others. Blaylock constructs what might be described as a leisurely page-turner: one wants to find out what comes next but doesn't feel compelled to rush onward to do so. Fans of horror in general--especially those who don't demand a high body count--as well as dedicated Blaylock fans will be well pleased. --Roland Green
Book list In reviewing Tales of Burning Love (1996), we observed that "the power of narrative and the salvation of love have always been Erdrich's quintessential themes." Those themes remain crucial to her latest novel, but here they only sporadically shine through a cloudy sky: "History is grief and no passion is complete without its jealous backdrop." In her characteristically swirling narrative style, Erdrich tells the story of two intertwined Ojibwa families, the Roys and the Shawanos, and the fiery love that scars their souls and inhibits their freedom. We hear many voices in these overlapping and interconnected stories, jumping in time and place from a cavalryman who bayonets an Indian woman and then saves an infant girl to a reservation dog who avoids the soup pot and becomes a canine Greek chorus, but the axis around which the entire cast rotates is an event, not a person: when a smooth-talking trader abducts (or maybe just entices) a beguilingly beautiful woman from a powwow and takes her with him to Minneapolis, a tremor is felt on the mythic seismograph, echoing the past and foreshadowing the future. Some readers may have difficulty with the narrative jumps and the rich overlay of magic realism, but for those willing to slowly immerse themselves in this nonlinear world as one soaks in a hot bath, the rewards are many. Erdrich's image-rich prose seduces the reader just as her trader lures his Antelope Wife and as the other lovers across generations forge their connections ("His low, vibrant voice sank down the front of Mary's dress"). And while it is those passionate connections that again provide salvation for Erdrich's storm-tossed characters, we feel equally the power of connections to constrain, to keep Antelope Wife from stretching the horizon. --Bill Ott
Publishers Weekly "Family stories repeat themselves in patterns and waves, generation to generation, across blood and time." Erdrich (Love Medicine, etc.) embroiders this theme in a sensuous novel that brings her back to the material she knows best, the emotionally dislocated lives of Native Americans who try to adhere to the tribal ways while yielding to the lure of the general culture. In a beautifully articulated tale of intertwined relationships among succeeding generations, she tells the story of the Roy and the Shawano families and their "colliding histories and destinies." The narrative begins like a fever dream with a U.S. cavalry attack on an Ojibwa village, the death of an old woman who utters a fateful word, the inadvertent kidnapping of a baby and a mother's heartbreaking quest. The descendants of the white soldier who takes the baby and of the bereaved Ojibwa mother are connected by a potent mix of tragedy, farce and mystical revelation. As time passes, there is another kidnapping, the death of a child and a suicide. Fates are determined by a necklace of blue beads, a length of sweetheart calico and a recipe for blitzkuchen. Though the saga is animated by obsessional love, mysterious disappearances, mythic legends and personal frailties, Erdrich also works in a comic vein. There's a dog who tells dirty jokes and a naked wife whose anniversary surprise has an audience. Throughout, Erdrich emphasizes the paradoxes of everyday life: braided grandmas who follow traditional ways and speak the old language also wear eyeliner and sneakers. In each generation, men and women are bewitched by love, lust and longing; they are slaves to drink, to carefully guarded secrets or to the mesmerizing power of hope. Though the plot sometimes bogs down from an overload of emotional complications, the novel ultimately celebrates the courage of following one's ordained path in the universe and meeting the challenges of fate. It is an assured example of Erdrich's storytelling skills. (Apr.)
Publishers Weekly Ruled by the Hitler-like Master Drachton Below according to the principles of Physiognomy (the "science" of judging the proportions of the flesh), the anti-utopian Well-Built City of Ford's goofily allegorical debut is already ripe for revolution when Below sends physiognomist Cley to the mining town Gronus to track down a fabled white fruit stolen from the state Church. A cruel, merciless bureaucrat who recommends anyone with less than perfect features for execution or the sulfur mines, Cley starts to soften toward his subversive assistant, Arla, and eventually vows to overthrow the City. Ford's inventions founder somewhere in the never-never land between Asimov and Kafka, as he substitutes the cute for the prophetic, obvious moralizing for original inventions ("Shudder," for instance, is coffee; "absence" is alcohol; "sheer beauty" a heroin-like opiate). The things Ford does invent are too whimsical to be threatening, such as the blue miners who are used as fuel or monuments when they die, and the thematic conflicts?good vs. Evil, death vs. Immortality, man vs. Nature, man vs. himself?lack subtlety, to say the least, while Ford's social crusades (against sexism and state violence) are too cartoonish to evoke any real-life struggles. Despite Ford's evident, childlike delight in his alter-world, the accoutrements of the story aren't enough to sustain its larger concerns. (Sept.)
Book list Cley, Physiognomer First Class, arrives in a frontier mining town in the realm despotically ruled by his and everybody else's Master to rediscover the white fruit kept by the town church. The fruit came from a place commonly called paradise, and the Master wants it because eating it confers immortality. But Cley bungles his assignment mysteriously, falling afoul of the Master, who has the town destroyed and Cley dispatched to a sulfur-mining penal colony and certain death. Cley gets out, of course, becomes a fifth columnist, and attains some salvation, as well as an enormous improvement in personality, in a pedestrianly written yet colorful and fast-paced quest fantasy that is more beholden to such graphic novels as Ronin and the Crow and Sandman series and to redemption sagas in the vein of The Pilgrim's Progress than to sword-and-sorcery epics. --Ray Olson
Publishers Weekly Departing from the future society she traced in Unquenchable Fire and Temporary Agency (a Nebula Award finalist), Pollack imagines with flair a fantasy world sprawled across the back of a giant turtle. At a dance at a college in a city "in the eastern part of the turtle, not far from the sea," two young women, Laurie and Jaqe, meet and fall in love. They also meet Mother Night, who helps the couple cope with the obstacles strewn across their path by family and society. An older, redheaded woman who rides around on a motorcycle, surrounded by a crew of younger, similarly carrot-topped women, Mother Night is in fact Death. While she helps Laurie and Jaqe in their quest for peace and justice, she also brings about the early demise of one of the lovers, shortly after a baby daughter is born. Mother Night becomes a true godmother to this child, watching over her and disclosing to her secrets of the departed. Pollack's fairy-tale plot is resourceful and original, but here, as in her earlier fiction, the emphasis is on character as she portrays women's intimate relationships with one another with resonance and realism. This is another fine outing by one of the most gifted and sensitive fantasists working today. (Sept.)
Library Journal Notions of doubleness pervade this tale of a feud between the families ot two Victorian-era magicians. Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier have spent their careers trying to sabotage one another. When Borden ups the ante by developing a seemingly impossible trick in which he is moved across the stage in a unimaginable short time, Angier responds by enlisting inventor Nikola Tesla to build a turn-of-the-century version of a Star Trek-like transporter. The magicians' story is framed by that of two descendants, affected by the feud in ways they are only beginning to fathom, who meet at the Angier family's desolate country estate. Mixing elements of the psychological novel with fantasy, this is an inventive, if somewhat far-fetched, British neo-Gothic. For most collections.?Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, Mass.
Publishers Weekly Priest, one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists (1983 list), has not been overproductive since he made a small reputation with The Affirmation and The Glamour, published here more than a dozen years ago. His new novel (the title of which refers to the residue left after a magician's successful trick) is enthrallingly odd. In a carefully calculated period style that is remarkably akin to that of the late Robertson Davies, Priest writes of a pair of rival magicians in turn-of-the-century London. Each has a winning trick the other craves, but so arcane is the nature of these tricks, so incredibly difficult are they to perform, that they take on a peculiar life of their own?in one case involving a mysterious apparent double identity, in the other a reliance on the ferocious powers unleashed in the early experimental years of electricity. The rivalry of the two men is such that in the end, though both are ashamed of the strength of their feelings of spite and envy, it consumes them both, and affects their respective families for generations. This is a complex tale that must have been extremely difficult to tell in exactly the right sequence, while still maintaining a series of shocks to the very end. Priest has brought it off with great imagination and skill. It's only fair to say, though, that the book's very considerable narrative grip is its principal virtue. The characters and incidents have a decidedly Gothic cast, and only the restraint that marks the story's telling keeps it on the rails. (Oct.)
Book list A past winner of the World Fantasy Award, Morrow could easily claim another prize, for the year's most outlandish fictional premise, if there were prizes for such things. When God Himself drops dead, leaving His two-mile-long corpse floating face up in the Atlantic, former sea captain Anthony Van Horne is recruited by a grieving archangel to haul the Corpus Dei to an icy tomb at the North Pole. Eager to redeem himself for indi~rectly causing the century's worst oil spill, Van Horne resumes command of his newly repaired supertanker, the Carpco Valparaiso, and speeds north with God in tow. Already faced with protecting the corpse against marauding predators from the air and the sea, Van Horne confronts a series of setbacks as absurd as the notion of his divine cargo--setbacks such as a plot by a rescued feminist castaway to bomb and sink the patriarchal corpse for the good of womankind. Writing a brand of masterfully understated comic prose all his own, Morrow is a genius, and this book is one of the most deliciously irreverent satirical sprees in years. ~--Carl Hays
Library Journal Anthony Van Horne, the disgraced captain of an oil tanker that spilled its cargo, is approached by the angel Raphael at the Cloisters in New York to command his former ship on an important mission. It seems God has died, and his two-mile-long corpse has fallen into the ocean at 0 latitude, 0 longitude. The Vatican would like the captain to tow God to a remote Arctic cave for a quiet burial. Naturally, things don't work out this simply, and the complications form the events of this splendid comic epic. As more and more folks with varying perspectives become aware of the covert mission, more hell, if you will, breaks loose. The author, an sf crossover, puts the weighty subject and its possible ramifications to clever use on many levels. He packs the story with sailing matters, cultural criticism, theology, physics, and more but still manages to keep the encounter bubbly and inviting. Recommended for general collections.-- Brian Geary, West Seneca, N.Y.
Publishers Weekly God is dead, and Anthony Van Horne doesn't feel very well himself. Van Horne--whose captaincy of a mammoth oil tanker during an Exxon Valdez -type spill has left him unemployed, estranged from his family and suffering nightmares--is hired by the Vatican to pilot his former vessel as it tows the Supreme Being (found dead of unknown causes) to a tomb in the Arctic that His angels have built for Him. Van Horne's task would be difficult enough without the well-intentioned efforts of devout atheist Cassie Fowler and her compatriots from the Central Park West Enlightenment League, whose reactions to God's corporeality belie their organization's quaint name. Morrow (winner of a World Fantasy Award for his novel Only Begotten Daughter ) describes a captivating voyage. As complication builds upon complication--including a shipwreck, an island that appears to be the abode of pagan gods, a mutiny, acrimonious dealings with Van Horne's father and contretemps from both the reappraising Vatican and the WW II Reenactment Society--Van Horne's journal reads like that of a modern-day Odysseus. There's an unnecessary death that deprives the narrative of the perspective of one of its potentially most interesting characters, but this clever novel still stands as a wry, boisterous celebration. (May)