This is the story of Ashdod, a land which mathematician Magi control. The Magi worship the number One with its representation of Infinity. For generations, a pyramid, Threshold, has been under construction: it represents the perfect mathematical formula that will enable the Magi to touch and then to step into Infinity.
Thousands of slaves have been drafted into the construction of Threshold. Among them is a young and gifted glassworker who has been renamed Tirzah. This story is told by Tirzah, who has a very special gift. Tirzah can communicate with the glass which is being used to cover the pyramid. There is something going seriously wrong at Threshold and it is transforming in ways that the Magi cannot control. Threshold was supposed to be a bridge for the Magi into Infinity, but when something comes across the bridge from Infinity things go horribly wrong.
Boaz, the Master Magus, has secrets of his own, and he also knows that Tirzah is hiding something. What are those secrets, and can they work together to save Ashdod?
I enjoyed this novel: there is plenty of page turning action, and while the world created is a bleak one there is hope of redemption. I found that the first half of the story flowed more easily for me than the second half but by then I was so engaged by the characters (especially Tirzah and Boaz) that I found it hard to put the book down. This is the first Sara Douglass novel that I've read and as this novel is the prequel to The Darkglass Mountain Trilogy', I will look for those books next.
on July 12, 2004
"Threshold" is a freestanding work by the Australian novelist, Sara Douglass, author of the popular "Wayfarer Redemption and "Troy Game" series. It takes place in an imaginary version of the Biblical kingdom of Ashdod, with elements of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia thrown in. Its main character, Tirzah, a talented glass worker is sold into slavery and forced to work on a monstrous project-Threshold, a pyramid whose mathematically-based magic will (they think) propel its builders into Infinity. But Tirzah, no mere glass worker, can communicate with the glass, and she senses something profoundly evil in the project. The first half of the story concerns her and her friends' attempts to disrupt the construction and her growing but uneasy relationship with her master, the great Magus Boaz. The second half follows the groups' attempts to fight the evil unleashed by Threshold and the love story between Tirzah and a changed Boaz.
For me, "Threshold" is one of those books that I both love and hate-I couldn't stop reading it even though parts of it just didn't work and at times felt downright hokey. The idea of a mystical pyramid, for example, seemed a bit much to me, although the author uses it as an allegory about the dangers of knowledge without wisdom and the need for humility in approaching the unknown.
Many of the characters were well drawn-Tirzah and Isphet particularly. Others were less so-Yaqob, for instance, was supposed to be Tirzah's first love, but he didn't seem particularly lovable or even much more than a cardboard character. The Soulenai, the supernatural beings guiding the group seemed more like spiritual big brothers than powerful beings worthy of worship. As for Boaz, his rapid transformation from hateful Magus to loving hero was just too rapid, and Tirzah's immediate forgiveness of his abuses makes no pyschological sense. He destroys her womb so she won't conceive and later has her thrown into a cell to die without food or water. And she still loves him? Yeah, right. Douglass may have drawn a strong female character here, but she undermines Tirzah's strength by placing her into the standard "love your abuser 'cause it's not really his fault" position.
Nonethless, after alI was said and done, I enjoyed reading "Threshold." Unrealistic though it was, I found the romance between Tirzah and Boaz to be one of the best things about the book. Many of the plot twists were interesting, as were many of Douglass's descriptions. For me "Threshold" belongs on that shelf where I keep other guilty reading pleasures-books that I know aren't particularly well-written but are easy to read and easy to enjoy-the literary version of comfort food.
on April 1, 2004
I had an extreme liking to this book, for it's beautiful details on life and surrounding landscape and buildings, and also the strong female lead. Some people might think that at some places in the book, Tirzah's not strong enough, but hey considering what she went through, she is far stronger than most could ever be, at least not too much self-pitying to tire the readers. About the complains for Boaz being torturing... well, in the setting he as the slave master, it would seem fake enough if he wasn't. Besides, his transformation/transition was well portrayed enough in the story. The grim aspects of slavery was detailed, but never overly done. Other characters such as Zahbre and Isphet are also well developed.
Although the plot does dragged at some places, the story kept at a pleasant pace that keeps the pages turning. All the loose ends were well-tied in the conclusion and all questions well answered. I guess the only complain I could have was that this book read more as a romance in fantasy setting instead of a fantasy in which a romance took place... but that depends too. the world-building was convinsing and quite a few suprising twists.
on December 22, 2003
Sold into slavery to pay debts, a glass worker with inherent magical powers ends up helping to build Threshold. Originally devised to tap the unlimited power of creation it is now seen as the gateway for evil entering into the natural world.
The plot for THRESHOLD is new and interesting. Although it drags at times the story does come to a satisfactory conclusion at the end, something that should be remarked upon as it is so rarely found these days.
Characters are for the most part reasonably well portrayed and fleshed out for a stand-alone novel. Although Tirzah's, the main character, falling in love with her torturing, raping master will undoubtedly give the Feministas' stomach pains if not outright heart attacks, it does work in this story. Boaz, the torturing master turned savior, is a well done character although he never achieves the level of 'poor misunderstood boy,' at least from me, that Ms. Douglass seems to want to bestow on him.
All in al THRESHOLD is a good story but not a great story. Worth reading, yes, but if it takes you a while to get around to it you won't have missed anything of immediate importance. On balance I would RECOMMEND it, but is a mild recommendation at best.
on October 12, 2003
Threshold is a fantasy novel about a civilization much like ancient Egypt. Threshold is a pyramidal object designed as a conduit of magical power. It has been under construction for eight generations and is close to completion. Although the ruler, Chadd-Nezzer, has provided the money, materiel and labor, the project was initiated, and is supervised, by the Magi.
In this novel, a northern girl and her father are sold into slavery to pay back his gambling debts. Since both are excellent glassmakers, the slavers take them south to Adab in En-Dor. There they and other skilled slaves are sold to a factor for the Magi and then transported to Ashdod, where they sail south on the Lhyl river, first to Setkoth and then to Gesholme, where Threshold is being built.
In Setkoth, they encounter the Magus Boaz, who refuses to believe that the pair are worth the amount paid for them. When told that the girl can cage, he insists that she demonstrate her talent with a piece of fractured glass that has been discarded. The results definitely show that she has glassworking skills, yet Boaz accuses her of being an Elemental, changes her name to Tirzah and her father's to Druse, threatens her -- which is characteristic of him and most other Magi -- and then allows the slaves to depart.
When they arrive at the construction site, the slaves are taken to Ta'uz, the Magi site master, who assigns Tirzah and her father to the workshop managed by Isphet. Druse is lodged in the tenement for men supervised by Yaqob and Tirzah is assigned to Isphet's tenement. When Ta'uz accompanies the girl to her lodgings, he detects that one of the slave women is giving birth to a girl-child, takes the infant away from the mother, and dashes the baby against the wall. Only the One is allowed to breed at Threshold.
The Magi have harnessed the magic of numbers. One is the key number, since it has only a single factor, and is therefore also related to infinity. Since infinity equates to eternity, the Magi believe that the magic of One will allow them to tap infinite energy and eternal life through Threshold. Every aspect of Threshold has been calculated for this effect. In the center of the pyramid is the Infinity Chamber -- with equations carved everywhere within the glass walls -- where the actual connection to infinity will be made.
The Magi are relatively new in Ashdod, having developed the power of numbers only a few centuries before. Prior to the Magi, the magic of Elementals was paramount, working through glass and metal, but the Magi began persecuting their rivals with the initation of the Threshold project and now many Magi believe that there are no more Elementals.
Unknown to the Magi and herself, however, Tirzah is an Elemental. While aware that her talents allow her to hear the thoughts and feel the emotions of glass, metal, ceramics and, to a lesser extent, clay, she is not aware that others have had the same abilities. This talent augments her skills, yet also convinces her that something dark and evil is happening in the Infinity Chamber, for the glass lining the room overwhelms her senses with their cries of foreboding and terror.
The ancient Egyptians invented mathematics and treated it as a sacred language. According to the legends, when Pythogoras stole their secrets and fled to Greece, he and his followers also treated mathematics as sacred. The more secular Greeks, however, soon separated the practical from the mystical and went on to develop mathematics as an alternate means of describing the physical universe.
This book speculates about the consequences of a society in which numerology can produce definite results through magical associations. Such magic is described as cold and calculating and the practitioners are hard and heartless people, as best exemplified by Boaz's torment of Tirzah. Yet at the center of this magic is an overlooked, and deadly, flaw.
This book is a fascinating depiction of an exotic culture that might have existed on our planet several millennia ago. At the same time, it is a cautionary tale against over dependence upon logical and analytic reasoning, for such processes assume infinite and complete knowledge.
As might be expected, this book tends to defy logic. The various plotlines are being tended offstage by the Soulenai from within the Place Beyond. Thus, most things happen according to their script, to which we are not privy. However, the Soulenai have not completely eliminated chance and the random factor, for several events surprise even them!
Recommended for Douglass fans and for anyone else who enjoys stories of strange magic in exotic locales with strong and interesting characters.
on September 15, 2003
In the cold regions of the North known as Vinland lives Tirzah and her father who create beautiful glass objects. They are contented until Druse gambles away everything they earned, leaving them deeply in dept. To wipe out their arrears, they are sold into slavery and travel by boat to Ashdod in the South. There, Tirzah shows the Master of the Magi Boaz her unusual skill as a glassmaker.
Boaz sends her and her father to Grensholme, the slave city that lies in the shadow of Threshold, a pyramid structure that has taken eight generations to create. All that is left to do is put the finishing touches of glass where needed which is why Tirzah and other master glassmakers are desperately needed. When Tirzah meets other of her kind, she learns she is an Elemental magician and that is why she can hear the glass chatter. Her magic is forbidden in Ashdod where the state religion is the power of the One. When Boaz takes over the working of Threshold he forces her into his bed.
Over time, Tirzah realizes that the Mage is fighting his own nature and when he lets his mask slip can be very loving and tender. On the day Threshold is finished, a creature from the Vale enters the world and takes over the minds of everyone in the area. Tirzah and Boaz along with several other elementals are able to escape to a place where they can learn to use their powers to send the evil creature back into Infinity before he destroys the world.
This stand-alone novel from the creator of The Wayfarer Redemption series is epic in scope and brilliant in world building. There is enough action to satisfy sword and sorcery fans and enough romance to satisfy fans of that genre. The metamorphosis of Boaz from a cold and rigid master to a warm and caring elemental necromancer is totally believable because the character slowly changes by events that affect him personally.
Tirzah is no whimpering lass who submits to slavery but a warrior magician who fights to save herself and her loved ones from the affect of the creature of the Vale. She loves strongly and it is the strength of her caring that allows Boaz to lower his guard around her so that when the time comes he is at her side, fighting to undo the damage he and other magi have caused. Although their goal was not evil, they played around with forces without considering the consequences because in their arrogance, they thought there would be none. They paid a huge price for their presumption and the reader will feel satisfied and more by their ultimate fate. Ultimately it is Boaz who makes the biggest sacrifice but his bond with Tirzah is so strong it overcomes time and space. The audience will want to see the further adventures of Tirzah and Boaz because these two are not the type of characters that will be content to rest on their laurels.
on October 21, 2003
It was interesting reading Threshold and seeing how the strong female leads in Wayfarer and Troy originally developed. Faraday, Azhure and Cornelia owe much to Tirzah. The story is creative and moves quickly. There are a few twists that keep you guessing but these eventually serve to round out the characters rather than give mystery. That, of course, is Sara Douglass's art and greatest strength; believeable characters who get you into their story not intricate plot twists, monsters or gagets. Great characters, great plot, great writing and a great look over the shoulder, so to speak, for all Sara Douglass fans.
on December 6, 2003
A friend recommended this book to me. It was not until later that I discovered he had the author confused with someone else. What bad writing! The positive reviews here show me that either fantasy is in a worse state than I realized, or people are just not demanding enough of their authors. I find Ms. Douglass to be somewhat more competent here than she was in her awful Wayfarers Redemption, but that's not saying much. The second star is for what I grudgingly admit is an original take on a standard plot, but the writing itself is so bad that it makes the teeth hurt.
on February 16, 2004
This is one of those books which I re-read; something I don't do that often. Though most of the plot was rather predictable, Ms. Douglass writes with a certain measure that kept me totally hooked. When Boaz left to destroy Nzame, I cried (literally). If you don't like romance, then don't read this. Emotions are played upon vastly throughout the entire book. I hope the author can come up with more like this, or I will!
on May 17, 2004
THIS BOOK WAS AWESOME!!! Sara Douglass catches your attention on the first page and holds it through the entire book until the very last page. The characters are so well written I began crying when something bad would happen to any of them I got so attached. Its wonderful how she never lets you know Tirzah's real name until the very end. It keeps you reading just so you will find out her name!!