From Publishers Weekly
Readers who don't balk at the hefty price will find this first fantasy novel a clever concoction of vignettes and short stories knitted into a morality tale about the temptation of illusion and the price of truth. In an exotic setting reminiscent of Tanith Lee's Flat Earth series, Nazarian introduces a cast of characters all in search of something. Learra quests for the legendary island of Amarantea, "where the soul flies in search of wonder, when sleep takes you by the eyelashes," only to turn her back on it in the end. Cruel Lord Cireive executes Ailsan, Queen of Risei, the last of her people, only to find that her death gives her the power to defeat him. A king determined to find the "true End of the World" sends off teams of explorers, only to reject their discovery and suffer the consequences. Storyteller Annaelit insults the god of Things Left Over and finds herself at odds with her own counsel: "the world is shaped by two things stories told and the memories they leave behind." At the core of this sprawling saga is Nadir, "lowest of the low," whose only chance at redemption lies in saving the soul of a heartless wizard's daughter from the Lord of Illusion. The author's sumptuous language will resonate with Lord Dunsany and Clark Ashton Smith fans, even if it's not to most modern tastes. Despite a tendency to belabor the obvious, as when a wise servant tells her foolish master, "in the end only the truth will save us," Nazarian's vital themes and engaging characters are sure to entertain.
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Nazarian's story cycle treads the borderline between the episodic novel and the short-story collection, recalling the work of contemporary fantasist Charles de Lint, early-twentieth-century fantasist Lord Dunsany, and even, reaching way back, The Thousand and One Nights
. The book's underlying theme is the convergence of souls through the operations of the Compass Rose, located in the island realm of Amarantea and employing warriors and princesses, servants and conquerors, and, above all, storytellers. Nazarian's characterizations are sometimes uncertain, but her imagery is rich, vivid, and memorable, not to mention being remarkable because she realizes it not in her native language, Russian, but in English. She honors another tradition of the fantasy story cycle--slow pacing--but makes sure that the book can be read in snippets with no loss of pleasure or appreciation. Indeed, this is a singularly appealing book by a new voice in fantasy. Roland GreenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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