Dekteon, a slave in fantasyland, escapes and blunders into a strange world between worlds where horses have bear paws and he gets hired by a man who looks just like him to guard him from the terrors of the night. At least, that's the excuse. But it turns out that his new employer has a much more sinister task in mind.

This odd fantasy has some very beautiful, striking images and scenes, and the first fourth or so has a wonderfully spooky, dreamlike atmosphere. Unfortunately, once Dekteon is sent to the matriarchy of cold, bitchy moon women and the sun men they rule, the magic falls away and is replaced by an annoying plot in which he gets the better of the entire society just by being a manly man and not doing what the women say. I'm not objecting just because it's sexist. I'm also objecting because it's dumb and boring.

Not one of Tanith Lee's best. Though I do love the cover, which is 100% accurately taken from the book. A woman with an ivory bow riding a horned lion is what I read fantasy for; wish she was in a better book.

It was part of the MagicQuest series, a fantastic YA fantasy imprint which reprinted (or originally published some?) books by Patricia McKillip, Jane Yolen, Diana Wynne Jones, Peter Dickinson, Robert Westall, Paul Fisher, and Elizabeth Marie Pope. They had great covers and sometimes also great interior illustrations, and I haunted libraries and bookshops for them - all were reliably worth reading, though I liked some more than others. (I never warmed up to Peter Dickinson, and the Pied Piper book was forgettable.) Except for the Westall book, I read all its books for the first time from that imprint; it introduced me to Diana Wynne Jones and Tanith Lee.

I wish the imprint had lasted longer, but it only put out 18 books. Looking them up now, I see that I never saw or even heard of The Last Days of the Edge of the World by Brian Stableford.

Anyone else read MagicQuest? What were your favorites and least favorites?
Tanith Lee. She has a lush, romantic, gothic style that teeters on the edge of being overblown, and sometimes falls in. I like her short stories better than her novels, probably because that sort of style can become much of a muchness. Red as Blood or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer is worth checking out even if you’ve read lots and lots of revisionist fairy-tales; Lee isn’t so much about amazingly original ideas as she is about conveying intense, luscious, decadent atmosphere.

Megan Lindholm (AKA Robin Hobb) If you like small-scale adventure fantasy, unusual worldbuilding, and tough female protagonists who aren’t magicians or warriors, I can’t recommend Lindholm’s “Ki and Vandien” series highly enough. In the first book, Ki, a trader with her whole life contained in her wagon, takes down Vandien, a desperate man trying to steal her stuff, then pities and befriends him. For the rest of the series, Ki and Vandien wander the extremely peculiar world, having adventures and uncovering the secrets of Ki’s past. The character development is excellent and at the heart of the series, but Lindholm is also very good with depicting the varied cultures of the world. (Many of the inhabitants are basically aliens rather than anything fantasy-normal.) Unlike her “Robin Hobb” books, there is no whining and not a word wasted. The first and last books are my favorites in the series, but they’re best read in order. Harpy's Flight, Windsingers, Limbreth Gate (The Ki & Vandien Quartet), Luck of the Wheels. Click her tag for more reviews.

Elizabeth A. Lynn. I know I’ve read several of her books, so I’m not putting her in the “unread” list, but I apparently didn’t find them very memorable. I vaguely recall thinking that given their subject matter (martial arts and lesbians?), I ought to be more into them than I actually was.

Vonda McIntyre. Dreamsnake is a perennial favorite of mine: post-apocalyptic landscape, healer with bio-engineered medical snakes, and tender adoptive mother-daughter bonding between the healer and an abused girl she champions. Could do without the pasted-on villain unfortunately referred to as “the crazy.” But otherwise, I love this book to bits and pieces. I’m also very fond of her two original (not from the movies) Star Trek novels, and her sf novels. Dreamsnake and several others of her books are available in inexpensive ($4.99) e-book form here, and her space opera with polyamory, Starfarers, is up for free.

Patricia A. McKillip. She is great. I will rec one of her lesser-known novels, a perfect little gem of a book, which has the bonus of having one of the very few “a girl must choose between several suitors” plots which I actually like. It helps that they’re all worthy, sexy, and different… and that she picks my favorite. That being said, it’s not primarily a romance, but is more of a very atmospheric, magical coming of age story. After her fisherman father is drowned, teenage Peri hexes the sea in revenge, an impulsive act which sends out ripples of change into her fishing village, the surrounding kingdom, and the land under the seaThe Changeling Sea

Robin McKinley. She seems to have been left off accidentally, as she’s a major figure in the field. Her first book, Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast, was published in 1978. It’s still wonderful, a quiet, cozy novel without villains, about family love, romantic love and the beauty of both magic and everyday life. I like the beginning parts, in which Beauty simply lives with her family in their little cottage, just as much as the parts set in the castle, with the Beast.

Pat Murphy. The City, Not Long After is about how San Francisco turns into a post-apocalyptic artist’s colony, and is saved from an invasion by a “war is awesome!” right-wing general by the power of art. Sort of. The climax seems to imply that only violence can defeat violence, which goes so completely against the message of the entire rest of the book that it felt as if someone had snuck into the room when the manuscript was almost done and scribbled, “PACIFISM IS TOTALLY UNREALISTIC” on it. Not bad, but I was unfairly irritated by the too-good-for-this-cruel world artists and started reflexively siding with the general.

Authors I’ve never read, L-P: Phillipa Maddern, Ardath Mayhar, Janet Morris, Sam Nicholson (AKA Shirley Nikolaisen), Rachel Pollack. If you’ve ever read anything by either of them, please discuss in comments.


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