Archives for category: Magic

It’s a sunny June day so my thoughts are turning to relaxing holiday reading. On my wish-list when I’m reading Fantasy purely for pleasure are thrilling adventures in spectacular settings, flawed but lovable heroines and  heroes, scary but interesting villains, breathtaking magic, a dash of romance, a sprinkling of humour and, if I’m really in a holiday mood, some cute animals and covetable clothes. I found most of these elements in V.E.Schwab’s `A Darker Shade of Magic’ so I’m making it this week’s recommendation. `A Darker Shade of Magic’ was published a few months ago and is already available in paperback and as an ebook.

The story begins in 1819 when a young man called Kell arrives in London to visit the mad King George III. Kell is an Antari, a blood-magician with the very rare skill of being able to travel between parallel worlds. King George rules Grey London, which has no magic but is developing science and technology, while Kell comes from Red London which is rich in magical power. In White London people fight ferociously to control the little magic that is left after a crippling war with Black London, which has long been sealed off as a place too dangerous to visit. Kell has been adopted by the royal family of Red London and serves as an official messenger between the rulers of the three remaining Londons. It is absolutely forbidden for an Antari to carry anything between the worlds except royal letters but Kell is a rule-breaker and a risk taker.

During a trip to White London, Kell rashly agrees to smuggle a package which turns out to contain a magical stone that can only have come from Black London. In Grey London, Kell is attacked and wounded and the powerful black stone is stolen from him by a pick-pocket known as the Shadow Thief. When Kell tracks down the Shadow Thief he discovers that she is a nineteen year old girl called Delilah Bard. Lila has romantic dreams of becoming a pirate with her own ship and she longs for a life of adventure. When she proves to have an apititude for magic, Lila forces Kell to take her with him on the perilous journey he must make between worlds to get rid of the black stone. In Red London, Lila and Kell discover that there is a plot against the royal family which threatens the life of Kell’s adoptive brother, the dashing Prince Rhys. Kell and Lila also find themselves hunted by Holland, the powerful Antari who is forced to serve the Dane twins, the psychotic rulers of White London. Can a smuggler and a thief stop a magical war between the worlds which might threaten all the Londons?

I imagine that it was the interesting concept of a series of alternate Londons which sold this book to the publishers. London-based Fantasy has become fashionable in recent years and I’ve recommended a number of outstanding examples on my blog, such as Benedict Jacka’s `Fated’ (October 2012), Ben Aaronovitch’s `Rivers of London’ (December 2012) and Kate Griffin’s `A Madness of Angels’ (March 2013). In `A Darker Shade of Magic’ Kell reveals that he has never been to the countryside beyond the three cities but I’m not entirely convinced that Urban Fantasy is Schwab’s thing. None of her Londons seem as vivid and varied as the real city in all its splendour and squalor. Her Grey London is well…a bit grey. Flower-scented Red London with its shining crimson river and teeming Night Market, is the most colourful of the Londons we get to explore in this novel.

Palaces, and the extravagances and intrigues of court life, appear to inspire Schwab more than cityscapes. `Dreary’ Windsor Castle and `elegant’ St James in Grey London;  `Beating Heart’ the glittering palace built on a bridge over the magic-filled river of Red London, and the `Stone Forest’ fortress of the rulers of ash-covered White London are very well differentiated. Imagining striking clothes for her characters to wear is another of Schwab’s strengths. Lila gets to go to a masquerade ball in pirate boots, a horned mask and a cloak of true black velvet with glassy red clasps, while Kell has a magical coat which can transform itself to fit the fashion of any time or place. I want one of those.

Schwab is also a fine story-teller. Her fast-paced narrative is full of exciting action scenes – chases, abductions, murders, fights and some cracking magical duels – but still finds time for character development. `A Darker Shade of Magic’ is a good example of a `cascade plot’. Kell’s petty smuggling lands him in ever-worsening trouble and leads to further rule-breaking (such as transporting Lila between worlds) as he strives to put things right. The vicious rulers of White London, Queen Astrid and her brother King Athos, may be standard Fantasy villains who wouldn’t be out of place in `Game of Thrones’ but their evil plans do lead to some high-tension scenes. In spite of its title, I haven’t tagged this novel as Dark Fantasy because the mood of the story is relatively upbeat and the violence isn’t too gory. Schwab’s mission is to entertain her readers, not to horrify or disgust them.

Kell’s rival blood-magician, Holland, fulfils my requirement for an interesting villain. Holland’s true feelings remain hidden for most of the story and he frequently challenges Kell’s beliefs about the nature of magic. Is magic about balance or about dominance? Does the magician choose magic or the magic choose the magician? The most frightening force in the book is the stone from Black London, which can grant remarkable powers but is addictive and potentially lethal. As the story develops it becomes clear that Kell is not the only one to have made a near-disastrous mistake because of a desire to be something that he isn’t.

Kell and Lila meet by chance and become magically linked through an exchange of objects. Their story isn’t (yet) a romantic one, but they seem to have a special insight into each other’s true characters. Lila rejects any form of charity and insists that she needs no friends. She presents herself as a bold adventurer who steals `for freedom’ but Kell sees through this to the frightened, abused girl struggling to survive in a largely hostile world. Picturesque Kell ( pale skin, copper hair, one blue and one black eye), who has no idea who his real parents are, seems a typical brooding tormented Fantasy hero. It is one of the pleasures of this novel that spirited Lila won’t let him play this role. She frequently reminds Kell that he is lucky to have a family of any kind, that he has never known the poverty and hardship which she has experienced, and that breaking the rules for kicks just makes him a spoiled brat. Lila does though have some lessons to learn from Kell about friendship and unselfish bravery. I’m looking forward to reading the further adventures of this likeable pair and, who knows, there may even be some cute animals in the sequel. Until next time….

Geraldine

http://www.chalcedon.demon.co.uk

 

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This week I’m recommending the first part of a Fantasy trilogy inspired by the diverse cultures and turbulent history of the Silk Road countries of Central Asia. Some years ago I visited Turkmenistan and as I stood in the ruins of an ancient city destroyed by the Mongols and saw the remains of a pyramid built of human skulls, I thought, `Someone should write a Fantasy novel about this.’ Now they have. `Range of Ghosts’ by American author Elizabeth Bear was published in 2012. The story is continued in `Shattered Pillars’ (2013)  and completed in `Steles of the Sky’ (2014). These three novels (the titles all refer to mountain ranges) are collectively known as `The Eternal Sky’.  ‘Range of Ghosts’ is easy to get in paperback or as an ebook but after reading it on my Kindle, I ordered the whole trilogy in hardback because I knew that these were books I would always want on my shelves.

The story opens in the aftermath of a terrible battle between rival claimants to become Khagan of the empire conquered by the Qersnyk nomads. A young warrior called Temur has been wounded in the throat and left for dead. As he struggles to survive on the snowy steppe, Temur learns that most of his kinsman have died and that his treacherous uncle, Qori Buqa, has been victorious. Temur’s luck changes when he finds a friendly warhorse whom he names Bansh (dumpling). Riding Bansh he joins up with other refugees including the Tsareg clan. Temur soon becomes the lover of Edene, the clan leader’s grand-daughter, but Qori Buqa has supernatural help to track down and eliminate his nephew. The Tsareg survive an attack by an army of  blood-ghosts but the pregnant Edene is carried off. Temur vows to get her back but becomes dangerously ill as he and Bansh cross the haunted mountains known as the Range of Ghosts.

Temur is found and nursed back to health by two female wizards from the Rasan Empire, Tsering-la and Once Princess Samarkar, who have been sent to investigate the fate of the deserted city of Qeshqer. In the mountains, they encounter Hrahima who is a Cho-tse, a tiger who walks upright and speaks like a human. She brings a warning from Temur’s grandfather that the leader of the assassin cult known as the Nameless is stirring up wars and using evil magics not seen since the time of the legendary Carrion-King. When they all travel to Rasa, Samarkar finds the royal family in a state of crisis after a murder. She helps one of her sisters-in-law to escape from the Black Palace and throws in her lot with Temur and Hrahima. They are joined on their quest to reach the hidden citadel of the Nameless and rescue Edene, by  a warrior monk who has taken a vow of silence. A long and dangerous journey begins…

`Range of Ghosts’, and the `Eternal Sky’ Trilogy in general, has what I would call a `wandering around the map’ plot until the whole cast is finally in the same place for the big battle. Some of this wandering seemed a bit under-motivated but I never minded because the characters visit such colourful and fascinating places along Bear’s Celadon Highway.  In her world, each cultural area has a unique sky and set of heavenly bodies – `Different sky, different gods.’ This is a novel in which thrilling action scenes (magical attacks, assassination attempts, court intrigues and daring escapes) alternate with long descriptive passages. When is an `information dump’ not an information dump? When it is so full of captivating detail (such as Rasan people sticking their tongues out as a mark of respect or the 64 sacred colours of the wonderful steppe horses) that you want to learn even more about the places and customs being described.

The majority of Fantasy novels used to be set in versions of medieval Europe.  Now writers plunder cultures from all over the world for story ideas. This only works if the writer does plenty of research and is truly inspired by what they discover. That certainly seems to be the case with Bear who has used the `Secret History of the Mongols’ and legends and beliefs from places such as Tibet, North-West China, and the salt-deserts, `Heavenly Mountains’ and Silk Road cities of Uzbekistan to create a dazzling alternative version of Central Asia. Some things in the novel that you’d think she’d made up have a basis in fact, such as the notion that removing the head of an ancient conquerer from his tomb could cause a major war. Well, the head of Tamerlane (Timur the Lame) was removed from his tomb in Samarkand in 1941. Hitler invaded the Soviet empire the next day. I’ve been into Tamerlane’s tomb myself  but I promise I trod very quietly so as not to disturb his blood-thirsty ghost.

`Range of Ghosts’ has a larger cast of characters than I’ve been able to mention in my brief summary, all of them with interesting story arcs of their own. The plot includes Fantasy favourites such as the `return of the necromancer’, the `wandering heir to the throne’ and the `making of a wizard’ but they are all given a new gloss by the Central Asian setting. The ruthless  leader of the Nameless, al-Sepehr (so not very nameless then) may be a standard Fantasy villain but he is a particularly scary one. The ancient magic of Erem which al-Sepehr uses to communicate with his agents and control a djinn is impressively evil. Even reading the script in which its spells are written causes people to go blind. The sorcerer known as the Carrion King and his opponent the great Mother Dragon are haunting presences in the novel. Young Temur has never wanted to be Khagan but he sees his only alternatives as being carrion or being a king and both seem monstrous. Whether Temur can find a third way, is a question that hangs over the trilogy. As Qersnyk/Mongol warriors go, Temur is rather a gentle soul who manages to find room in his heart for three very different females – brave Edene, the wizard Samarkar, and his miraculous mare Bansh.

Strong female characters used to be a rarity in Heroic Fantasy but this book is full of them. Qersnyk women are shown as equals of the men. They are free to ride, hunt, fight, rule clans and take the sexual initiative. So when Edene is kidnapped and imprisoned in the citadel of the Nameless she doesn’t just sit around waiting to be rescued. After she is tricked into stealing a magical ring, Edene spends much of the trilogy fighting its corrupting influence. Samarkar is a clever and stong-willed princess who, after enduring a loveless royal marriage, decides to become a `Wizard of Tsarepheth’ even though this means sacrificing the power to create with her body for the chance of power to create with her mind. Compassionate Tsering-la failed to gain any magical powers after surviving the dangerous `neutering’ operation but she gradually discovers an important role for herself. Samarkar endures the ordeals and grows in status as a wizard throughout the story. She also becomes part of a love-triangle which doesn’t develop in the way that Western readers might expect. Tigress Hrahima is a formidable fighter but due to a tragedy in her past she is grappling with the moral problem of why bad things happen to good tigers. If the company of these four splendid heroines isn’t enough for you, as the trilogy continues you will also get to know a wicked empress who has a change of heart, two veiled Uthman women with secret agendas who must contend with many restrictions placed on their freedom, and the woman-king of the Lizard people. I hope you’ll enjoy following all of them along the Celadon Highway. Until two weeks time…

Geraldine

http://www.chalcedon.demon.co.uk

 

 

This week I’m recommending `The Golem and the Djinni’, a  warm-hearted first novel by Helene Wecker. The title makes this sound like some awful mash-up Horror movie along the lines of `Godzilla versus Mothra’ or `Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man’. In fact, it’s a sensitive story about an impossible friendship between a creature of earth and a creature of fire. `The Golem and the Djinni’ (or `The Golem and the Jinni’ as it is in America) came out in 2013 and is now available in paperback and as an ebook or an audio download. It is historical Urban Fantasy, largely set in late 19th century New York.

A wise old Rabbi finds a Golem – a woman made of clay and animated by Jewish magic – wandering the streets of Manhatten. Rabbi Meyer learns that she was created in Europe and bound to a man who was emigrating to America, but her `Master’ happened to die on the voyage just after bringing her to life. Due to their inhuman strength and destructive tendencies, Golems are dangerous creatures. Rabbi Meyer fears that he ought to destroy this Golem but he knows that she isn’t to blame for her existence, so he names her Chava and teaches her to pass for human. As a test, the Rabbi introduces her to his nephew Michael, who runs a refuge for Jewish immigrants who have just arrived in America. Michael is attracted to what he thinks is a shy young widow. To  solve the problem of Chava’s sleepless energy, Rabbi Meyer finds her a job in a Jewish bakery.

Meanwhile, a few streets away in the area known as `Little Syria’, a poor tin-smith called Arbeely is repairing a very old flask that belongs to Maryam, a kindly woman who runs the local coffee shop. With a flash of light, a naked young man appears in his workshop. Arbeely has accidentally released a Djinni who has been imprisoned in the flask for centuries. Djinns are creatures of fire but this one is trapped in human form by an iron band that he cannot get off his wrist. The Djinni guesses that he must have been enslaved by a powerful magician but he can’t remember how this happened. Arbeely finds the Djinni some clothes and gives him a name – Ahmad. As Ahmad proves to have an extraordinary talent for metalworking, Arbeely passes the Djinni off as his apprentice, newly arrived from Syria. Only Saleh, a crazy ice-cream seller who used to be a doctor, can see that Ahmad is not human.

Haunted by memories of his desert palace and his fascination with a Bedouin girl, handsome Ahmad wanders the city each night. He becomes the lover of a wealthy young lady, but their relationship means little to him. When he encounters the Golem, it is obvious that their natures and personalities are very different. Yet Chava is the one person who can understand how difficult Ahmad finds it to live as a human. Their friendship is interrupted when Chava’s instinct to use her strength to protect someone causes a crisis in her life. After Yehudah Schaalman, the old man who created the Golem, arrives in New York in search of the secret to eternal life, it becomes clear that the Golem and the Djinni are linked in an unexpected and dangerous way.  Both of them will have to make terrible sacrifices to stop an ancient evil and save the lives of people they have come to care about.

If you go into this book expecting frequent shocks and gore, you will be disappointed. This is a novel about human nature and the ways in which people can or should connect with each other. The pace of the story seems very slow at first. The Golem and the Djinni don’t even meet until about a third of the way through the book. Wecker takes her time lovingly describing two ethnic groups, the Jews and the Syrians (some Muslim, some Christian) struggling to establish themselves in a new country. These groups are suspicious of each other, but within themselves have an immensely strong sense of community. This is exemplified by Maryam’s many acts of discreet but practical charity, such as persuading local restaurants to buy ice-cream all year round so that Saleh won’t starve in winter. `The Golem and the Djinni’ initially seems to have a collection of case histories instead of a plot. There are no minor characters. The reader gets to hear everyone’s back story. There are detailed accounts of  the mysterious affliction which ruined Saleh’s life, Schaalman’s unsavoury career, the romantic life of one of the bakery assistants,  and the history of a Bedouin family who were able to see the Djinni’s palace. These may seem irrelevant, but rest assured these disparate pieces of the story all come together in the final chapters to create a dramatic climax.

What kept me reading in the early stages of the book was Wecker’s general gift for characterization and her solemn heroine Chava in particular. The Golem is a creature out of Jewish legend, made famous (or infamous) by a series of early German horror films (`Der Golem’ made in 1920 is still pretty scary). Schaalman warns his client, “No golem has ever existed that did not eventually run amok. You must be prepared to destroy her.” Wecker has imagined what it would be like to have a Golem’s powers and limitations. Chava doesn’t need to eat and cannot sleep but she has been warned that she must never tell anyone her true nature. There is a poignant scene in which Chava is so desperate for something to do during a long sleepless night in her tiny boarding-house room that she is reduced to counting the number of boards in the floor. Once she meets the Djinni she begins to spend her nights exploring the rooftops and parks of New York with him. Losing her Master on the voyage to America has left her with a terrifying lack of purpose. She no longer knows what she is for and she is almost overwhelmed by the conflicting needs and desires she can sense in the people around her. Chava lacks experience of the human world but her creator gave her intelligence and curiosity so she’s a remarkably quick learner. This combination of power and vulnerability make Chava one of the most appealing Fantasy heroines I’ve  encountered in long time.

On the surface, Ahmad is a less sympathetic character. He seems ungrateful towards the people who have taken him in and too selfish to comprehend the damage he does to his human lovers. Djinns in bottles have often been used to comic effect in Fantasy fiction or films (such as the wonderful `The Thief of Baghdad’) but Wecker treats the Djinni’s situation with complete seriousness. This freedom loving creature from the empty desert is trapped in a cold, crowded city where water is a constant danger to him. He doesn’t understand the ties of love and friendship, religion and culture that bind people together but he does have the spirit of a true artist. It’s hard not to be touched when Ahmad creates an image of his lost desert on a tin ceiling. Wecker even manages to evoke some sympathy for Schaalman, who abandoned his religious studies after a vision that he was already damned and became an unscrupulous dabbler `in the more dangerous of the Kabbalistic arts’. The reason for this vision is eventually explained but whether it was really impossible for Schaalman to be anything but evil remains an open question.

One of the major themes of this book is how far any being, whether they are golem, djinni or human, is compelled to act in a particular way because of their nature. Chava is shocked to discover how much of her character appears to be dictated by her original Master’s `grocery list of …desires in a wife’. She wonders if this means that `she can take no credit for her own discoveries, her accomplishments?’ Whether constraints take the form of magical words written on paper or a particular combination of genes, the problem is much the same. Every reader of `The Golem and the Djinni’ will have to make up their own mind about how far Chava and Ahmad are responsible for the consequences of their actions. Until two weeks time…

Geraldine

http://www.chalcedon.demon.co.uk

This week I’m recommending a book which contains some of the most convincing magic in all of Fantasy fiction.`The Phoenix and the Mirror’ by Avram Davidson was originally published in America in 1966. Davidson, who died in 1993, was an erudite man who wrote in many different genres. `The Phoenix and the Mirror’ was the first in his series of novels and short stories about the Roman poet Virgil, who was transformed in later tradition into a great mage and alchemist. This novel is available in paperback, on Kindle, or as an audio download. The `Fantasy Masterworks’ edition of `The Phoenix and the Mirror’ has a perceptive introduction by Adam Roberts which suggests that this is a novel which deserves to be read at least three times.

The story is set in a version of Renaissance Europe which is still dominated by the Roman Empire. In the city of Naples, in a house guarded by a Brazen Head, lives Vergil Magus. After an expedition into the tunnels under Naples goes wrong, Vergil finds himself in the palace of the Dowager Queen Cornelia. He allows himself to be seduced by the beautiful Cornelia who steals part of his soul. She will only give it back to him if Vergil succeeds in making her a virgin speculum, a magic mirror in which Cornelia can disover the whereabouts of her lost daughter, Princess Laura. Vergil has no choice but to agree, even though he knows that this is an almost impossible task.

With the aid of his jovial friend the alchemist Clemens, Vergil begins to assemble the materials he will need to forge the bronze mirror. They must have tin ore, but this is only found in the mysterious Tinland that lies somewhere beyond Tartis in the Great Dark Sea. Vergil visits the gloomy castle of  the Captain-Lord of the Tartismen, where he meets a Phoenician sea-farer known as the Red Man. After he saves the life of the Captain-Lord, Vergil is promised some tin-ore, but to obtain pure copper ore he will have to get to Cyprus, which is `cut off by the ships of the fierce Sea-Huns.’ The Red Man agrees to take Vergil in his own ship. Guided by strange dreams and the ravings of a madwoman, the Magus sets off on a dangerous voyage. When he reaches Cyprus, a place of rival cults and dark secrets, his problems only increase. Even when Vergil has all the materials he needs to make the magic mirror, questions remain. Is Princess Laura truly lost? What does Cornelia really want and who is the Red Man?

`The Phoenix and the Mirror’ is a short novel packed with original ideas and fascinating details. Reading this book is rather like eating a small slice of chocolate cake and finding that it fills you up because of its rich ingredients. Davidson was a master of the Fantasy and Science Fiction short story so perhaps it isn’t surprising that his novels tend to be rather episodic. My brief summary may have made the plot of `The Phoenix and the Mirror’ sound straightforward. It isn’t. The plot veers off in unexpected directions and there are stories within stories, some of them left tantalizingly open-ended. If Davidson’s work isn’t as popular as it should be, this may be because he seems to have taken an impish delight in breaking the normal rules of good story-telling and baffling his readers.

`The Phoenix and the Mirror’ begins excitingly with a man lost in a maze being chased by manticores `like great bloated weasels, hair a reddish yellow..and shaggy as goats, eyes bulging and glowing and rolling every way, showing an intelligence…far more than merely animal.’ However, it rapidly becomes less clear exactly what is going on. Mysteries are raised about Vergil and his mission which are never explained away. The reader has to guess what kind of man Vergil is from small clues scattered throughout the book. Even Vergil himself doesn’t seem to know. There are puzzling gaps in the time-line and important things sometimes appear to have happened between the scenes. The pace of the narrative is considerably slowed down by learned digressions: lectures on alchemy and metallurgy (dismissed by Clemens as `tedious recapitulation of details known to every apprentice’), strange anecdotes about past events, and a wealth of information about magical texts and objects. Sometimes you may wish that Davidson would just get on with the story, but if you skip the apparent digressions you could miss something vital. `The Phoenix and the Mirror’ is a page-turner, but you will often be turning the pages backward, to try and make sense of what you are reading. I probably ought to disapprove of this novel but I was won over by its eccentric characters – such as Dame Allegra, the ultimate in crazy cat-ladies, or Tildas, a Shaman who has been turned into a bear – and by all the mind-boggling background detail.

The title of one of Davidson’s other books – `Adventures in Unhistory’ could also apply to this one. Vergil is a citizen of an Empire that is part of the Great Economium but don’t expect helpful maps and family trees and appendices full of potted history. The reader is bombarded with references to deities and doges, temples and castles, tribes and kingdoms, and left to make sense of it all. The Renaissance seems to be in full swing but there is still an Emperor in Rome who uses the title of August Caesar – or there would be if he hadn’t run off to Avignon with his new girlfriend.  In this Roman empire, most of the religions of the Ancient World are still flourishing, magic and proto-science are hard to distinguish and monsters from Classical myth (a four-armed cyclops) and medieval Bestiaries (a blood-orange eating gargoyle) co-exist. Davidson obviously did an enormous amount of research and then picked out his favourite bits from a multitude of cultures and jumbled them together. This may not be the most logical approach but it makes for a very colourful fictional world. Horse-Jewelers Street, where Vergil lives, comes vividly alive, with its traders in beads and bells to ward off the Evil Eye, its Fountain of Cleo where women gather to fill their water-jars, its noisy wine-shop, the Sun and Wagon, the hut of rubble and rushes where Dame Allegra lives with her `covey of cats’ and the evening smells of wood-smoke, fish, oil and garlic.

Talking heads made of bronze, like the one by Vergil’s front door, were said to have been owned by many famous philosophers and magicians. This is just one indication that Davidson knew a great deal about the history of magic. As I know from my own research (see `Magic in Ancient Egypt’ by Geraldine Pinch) real-world magic required a lot more effort than simply waving a wand and shouting a few Latin words. Spells usually involved assembling a range of bizarre ingredients and performing ritual actions at propitious times, as well as speaking the right words in the appropriate language.  All this is portrayed in the immensely complex process of making the magic mirror, right up to finding blind men to do the final burnishing because only the first person to look in the finished mirror can use it to see whatever they desire. The cost of using magic is shown to be high. There is a chilling scene in which Vergil reluctantly uses an homunculus made from a mandrake root – `it might have been the tiniest of mummies ever seen’ to sniff out a wind.  He barely stops its fatal scream in time, is left with a `gray and purulent spot’ on one finger and knows that he must never perform that spell again. Throughout the book, Davidson reminds the reader that alchemy wasn’t just about turning base metals into gold; it was a search for hidden meanings and ultimate truths. `The Phoenix and the Mirror’ suggests that the same can be true of Fantasy fiction. There were two sequels, `Vergil in Averno’ and `The Scarlet Fig, or Slowly Through the Land of Stone”, but don’t expect a continuous story. Davidson didn’t write conventional Fantasy trilogies, or conventional anything. `The Phoenix and the Mirror’  may either  infuriate or delight you. Surely it’s worth finding out which? Until next week…

Geraldine

http://www.chalcedon.demon.co.uk