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Wednesday, April 22, 2009


***** Belladonna by Anne Bishop. Fantasy.

This is the sequel to Sebastian. Blame my massive TBR mountain for the long time lag between books.

I notice I rated Belladonna a half star higher than Sebastian. I'm not sure if that's because I'm more familiar with the universe now, or if it's due to my moods while reading them, or if I truly think Belladonna is a better book. In other words, don't read too much into the difference.

The Eater of the World was held at bay by the end of Sebastian, but now It's back and even more dangerous, and Glorianna Belladonna is the only one who can stop It.

At first glance, Belladonna is almost simplistic, with its fight between Dark and Light. But the more I read, the more complex and complete it became. Belladonna is alone--the only one really of her kind, and she's distrusted and reviled by those most like her: the Landscapers and Bridges who can affect the shattered world of Ephemera.

Then she meets Michael, from a different part of Ephemera, a part which wasn't as broken apart, a place where magical powers in general are distrusted and reviled, a place where people don't realize how--or even that--those powers shape and change the world.

Michael is himself a "magician, luck-bringer, and ill-wisher." His sister Caitlin is a "sorceress." They can and do influence the world, but since they're from a place where their powers aren't recognized, much less nurtured, neither of them is fully aware of what they can do, or how to control it.

Seeing the same magical phenomena explained from two very different viewpoints made it more real and interesting. And I very much appreciated that the Landscapes from Sebastian weren't the entire world. So often in fantasy, you only get one point of view of how the world works, so this was refreshing.

Best, though, in my opinion, was the emotional content of the story. The loneliness of many of the main characters, particularly Belladonna, Michael, Caitlin, Michael and Caitlin's aunt Brighid, and, in reminiscences, their mother, ached through the entire book. Easing that loneliness wasn't a simple matter, as distrust, duty, and dedication kept them apart.

It was so bittersweet watching Belladonna and Michael fall in love even though they knew they had responsibilities that would separate them. The choices all the characters have to make are difficult ones, and many involve sacrifice of one form or another.

I also loved the discussion of the effect of living in a Landscape one doesn't resonate with. It's a wonderful metaphor for life, and the effect on a person of living a life that doesn't fit them. It made me think of Martian Child.

A caveat, though if you've already read Sebastian you shouldn't need it: the Ephemera books are not the Black Jewels books. They're written with an entirely different tone and style. Honestly, if you pick these up expecting more books like the Black Jewels books, particularly the initial trilogy, you're going to be disappointed. And neither Ephemera nor Black Jewels is like the Tir Alainn trilogy, though the Amazon reviewers don't seem to mind that as much. Hmmm. Wonder why?

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I think that Belladonna was the better book as well!
So it wasn't just my imagination or my poor memory? Good to know. :)
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