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The Grand Ellipse [Mass Market Paperback]

Paula Volsky
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 30 2001
Paula Volsky, author of The White Tribunal, returns with a spectacular saga of adventure and intrigue, romance and rebellion — beginning with a wondrous discovery that could forever alter the fate of the free world....

In the modern, civilized republic of Vonahr, the need for magic seems a thing of the past. But soon the Vonahrish will find that magic is their only hope — for an imperialistic race of fanatics, intent on conquering the world, now masses on Vonahr’s borders.

Vonahr’s slim chance for salvation lies in a nearby neutral kingdom, where a brilliant savant has conjured up the ultimate weapon: Sentient Fire, a miraculous flame that responds to the command of its maker.

Low Hetz’s mad, flamboyant king refuses to relinquish the secret — so the desperate government of Vonahr sends the exquisitely beautiful adventurer Luzelle Devaire to turn his head and change his mind. But to gain an audience, Luzelle must win the Grand Ellipse, a test of endurance, ingenuity, and valor....

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From Publishers Weekly

Richly inventive and breathlessly paced, this variation on the old "around the world" race theme surpasses Volsky's earlier acclaimed fantasy The White Tribunal in deft characterizations and sly, wry wit. Tottering on the brink of war, the Vonahr republic watches uneasily as Grewzland's "vainglorious mystic" imperior Ogron blitzes his unprepared neighbors. The traditionally neutral Low Herz, however, ruled by Ogron's womanizing dilettante cousin, Miltzin IX, possesses a fantastic new magical weapon with a mind of its ownDthe green Sentient Masterfire. When Miltzin decrees an international race called "The Grand Ellipse" for the wealth and status of a Herzian barony, luscious Vonahrish bluestocking Luzelle Devaire accepts her government's secret commission: win the race, convince the lascivious Miltzin to sell Masterfire to Vonahr, and thus annihilate Grewzland's militaristic threat for good. She also hopes to escape the life of genteel wifely servitude that her domineering father has arranged for her. As feisty and resourceful as her Victorian ancestors, Luzelle finds herself drawn to her two chief rivals, the elegant Vonahrish ex-Marquis Girays v'Alisante, her former fianc , and the noble Grewzian Overcommander Karsler Stornzof, product of the mystical Promontory, where honor counts more than life's blood itself. Although Volsky's well-crafted novel uses the traditional quest format common in fantasies, Luzelle and her admirers provide thrilling entertainment for readers of all genres as they hurtle from one narrow escape to another. Brimming with vibrant, exotic settings and Volsky's knack for utterly convincing dialogue (impeded only slightly by contorted consonants in proper names), this lively adventure makes for unflagging reading enjoyment that should appeal to a wide swath of SF and fantasy fans. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

When an ambitious and fanatical tyrant threatens to invade the rational republic of Vonahr, the leaders of that land resort to desperate measures to acquire a magical creation that could mean the difference between conquest and freedom. To help her country, a young Vonahrish adventuress enters the spectacular race known as the Grand Ellipse in the hopes of winning an audience with the king, who possesses the secret of "Sentient Fire." The author of The White Tribunal excels in portraying fantasy worlds steeped in quasihistorical authenticity and convincing "period detail." Reminiscent of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days and other "great race" novels, Volsky's latest sf adventure features an engaging heroine determined to live by her own rules, even at the cost of her heart's desire.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Too Long, Too Boring Dec 21 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I quit reading Fantasy/SF at the end of '97, and have only read Tolkien since (for the 5th time), but was inexplicably captured by this title at the library. I have a few of Volsky's older books which I had always wanted to read, but never got the chance, so I thought I would try the Grand Ellipse.
The book works on a few levels - as a comment on Hitlerian Naziism, progress, and - especially - as a travelogue. The Sentient Fire may be viewed as anagolous to Nuclear technology.
However, knowing who would win the race, who would end up with whom, and what use the Sentient Fire would be put to left no room for surprizes. The Book could have also used some serious editing. In these times of overstuffed books, it would be nice to see one with a more pared, sleek, approach; especially, considering the contents of most of today's stories - including The Grand Ellipse - cannot sustain such a verbose narrative. Also, due to the overt resemblance to 19th Century Earth, little seemed fantastical or alien. The lack of a religion for the western nations was also incomprehensible.
Overall, I am sorry I wasted my time on this title, and am more entrenched in my position of not bothering to read popular contemporary fantasy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Woot! June 21 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
On a recent trip to the library with my best friend, I grabbed about 15 books that looked interesting. At the last minute, I spyed The Grand Ellipse on the very top of the shelf (you should check the very top for stuff- that's where all the good books are ^_~).
I am extremely thankful that I picked this one up--I had never heard of any of Paula Volsky's books until I read The Grand Ellipse; now she's my favorite author!
The Grand Ellipse was reminiscent of Jules Verne, and Luzelle Devair reminded me a bit of Nellie Bly in a world of fantasy. In reading this book, I could tell that Volsky put trememndous thought into every aspect. The various cultures described were so...descriptive! And Volsky didn't take up too much of your time elaborating on the countries and people inhabiting them. She told you what you needed to know, and then got back to the [exciting] story.
This book is awesome. If you've actually read this far on my review, I suggest you either buy it or check it out from the library. Having already done the latter, I plan on owning this book one I get some money.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Thing I've Encountered in a Long While May 19 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I was dazzled, shocked, transported out of this world...I had almost forgotten that that was what fantasy was supposed to do. In a nutshell, do yourself a grand favor and get this book.
The heroine is Luzelle Devaire, a beautiful young woman who also happens to be a seasoned traveler, an authoress, and lecturer of some note. All of this brings her to the attention of her rather desperate government. The acknowledged superpower of the day is bent on expansion at any cost and Luzelle's homeland appears to be the next target. Luzelle is recruited to enter a race called the Grand Ellipse that is the latest scheme proposed by a neighboring king of a neutral country...a country that holds the key to the greatest discovery of the fire that obeys every command of its master. Luzelle's mission is to win the race, which will bring her to the king's attention, and then woo the infamous skirt-chaser into selling her the secret of Masterfire.
Luzelle is looking forward to the adventure, but it turns out to more than she had expected. As she travels through marvelous lands of beauty, intrigue, and danger, she will face her greatest fears and then some and make some of the hardest decisions of her life, not the least of which is between the two men who have touched her heart, a love from the past and a soldier from an enemy army...
Take the Amazing Race, throw in politics, murder, deceit, desperation, war, danger, and romance and you have the Grand Ellipse. The world building is enough to blow you right out of THIS world. I highly recommend it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Rousing Ramble March 27 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
From the inventive imagination of Paula Volsky comes "The Grand Ellipse", a science fiction novel set in a near-Earth in a timeframe equivalent to the early Victorian period, with steamships, railroads, and hot air balloons figuring amongst the modes of travel. Magic, never apparently too prevalent, still exists but is fading in importance. However, a clever mage has discovered Sentient Fire, and many rival countries are striving to possess its secret.
Why should this be? Well, essentially the events of World War II are being played out, with Grewzland (read: Nazi Germany) ruthlessly expanding across the known world. And Sentient Fire is basically the atomic bomb, albeit under the control of a whimsical monarch in the mold of Ludwig II of Bavaria, a ruler who controls the stand-in for neutral Switzerland. Given his country's heritage, he has no intention of getting involved in any conflict, and doesn't want to turn over the Sentient Fire to any combatant. Fortunately for all concerned, this same king is sponsoring a mammoth race, the Grand Ellipse of the title (he was going to call it the Big Oval, but thought better of it), and one of the prizes is a chance to personally meet with him. Hence, a few of the racers are competing for the chance to use the audience to advance their country's plea for the powerful weapon, the only hope of stopping the Grewzians.
Chief amongst the competitors are Luzelle Devaire and Girays v'Alisante, both from Vonahr (a combination of post-Revolutionary France and pre-WWII England), and Karsler Stornzof, an acclaimed officer of the Grewzian army. Luzelle and Girays were formerly engaged, but their relationship foundered in the clash between his high-bred conservatism and her need for independence and adventure.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed it but that doesn't make a good book
She's a powerful writer in some ways. I loved her wide and challenging vocabulary and her ability to describe a world that felt real and touchable. Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2004 by H. D. Ginsburg
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, finally!!
After I read Illusion I found the other books by Paula Volsky to be missing the strength and depth of that book that so engrossed me when I read it. Read more
Published on Oct. 10 2002 by Cybele A. Baker
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good
I will admit, I very rarely read fiction written by women. It is not a sexist comment, just that I find it difficult identifying with female main characters. Read more
Published on July 12 2001 by Aramis68
3.0 out of 5 stars Around the World in 80 seemed like a year!
Okay, maybe not a year. I remember the first time I saw "Around the World in 80 days." I was quite young and thought it was wonderful. Read more
Published on June 14 2001 by M. Allegra
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding!
In a Victorianesque world of gaslights and steam engines, where magic is a memory becoming increasingly dim with the passage of years, there exists a woman named Luzelle Devaire. Read more
Published on Feb. 18 2001 by Kurt A. Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Volsky Since "Illusion!"
Combining the entire map of Volsky's world with Jules Verne's "Around the World in Eighty Days" and a hint of the Imperialism of World War I and the atomic power of World... Read more
Published on Jan. 9 2001 by Emily Snyder
4.0 out of 5 stars A Step in the Right Direction
Paula Volsky is an excellent writer, and all of her books are worth reading. However, after reaching a high point with Illusion, her more recent novels have seemed to grow less... Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars Plenty of action in this wild fantasy ride
Following a devastating revolution Vonahr's government has gone to seed and finds itself reduced to skeletal defenses and unable to meet the threat by an overlord of Grewzland who... Read more
Published on Nov. 9 2000 by K. N. Nelson
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal! Volsky strikes again!
I have been waiting for this book since the White Tribunal came out. Luzulle, an independant young scholar, embarks on a journey around the world not only to save her country but... Read more
Published on Nov. 4 2000 by Farheen H. Dogar
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