Thursday, October 20, 2011

Quick Review: Mortal Suns

Title: Mortal Suns
Author: Tanith Lee
Themes: family, love, royalty, fate, blessings, deformities/disabilities, hard work, incest, death
Rating: ***

Plot: Horrible screams pierce the night air as the Daystar, Queen Hesta of Akhemony, wrestles with the delivery of the King's child, beautifully formed except for one heartbreaking deformity -- she is born without feet. Consigned immediately to the world of death, the lame infant is dispatched to Thon, the underworld temple, and baptized Cemira -- "snake" -- the name she will bear throughout a lifetime of darkness. It is only at the behest of Urdombris, the Sun Consort, that Cemire is wrested from te temple of death, renamed Callistra, and restored to her rightful place in the kingdom.

My Thoughts: Basically, I think this blogger sums it all up nicely. I recommend checking it out for a quick and easy review of Mortal Suns.
  • Another typical Lee protagonist and plot-very beautiful and slightly off heroine with a love/lust/obsession for someone powerful (and usually blood related, to be frank). Enjoyable, but familiar if you have read much of Lee's work.
  • A vaguely alien Egyptian world, a different planet, but the court life and sun worship just strikes me as Egyptian for whatever reason.
  • A diverse and well made mythos. Lee provides not only a complete official pantheon within the story, of well fleshed gods/myths/superstitions/rituals but also gives the world a bit of depth by showing that there are competing mythologies in her world.
  • This story is essentially the first half of the narrator's life, and by the conclusion, you will feel something is missing-namely what comes next! Although I wouldn't necessarily call it a cliff-hanger.
  • Political intrigue and shifting alliances take up the majority of the plot, our narrator is merely a powerless player.
Recommendation: I enjoyed Mortal Suns quite a bit. It has Lee's excellent world building, if also her typical protagonist/plot outline. I felt the narrator had a strong and distinctive voice, but it did not really connect to the main character (herself) as described. In the end, I would recommend this to any fantasy lovers out there as a fun and intriguing read.

Similar Reads: Heroine of the World by Tanith Lee,

Random Quote: "From the smoke, maybe, the moon blushed rosy.

In his tent hung with crimson, Nexor dined with a meager scatter of sycophants.

They heard the songs.

Over the valley of two miles, the Ipyrans heard them, too. A joyous bridegroom sings before his marriage day, they said, in Ipyra. They listened to the joyous bridegroom singing, and wondered if marriage would mean, for them, something else. (p. 201)"

Lee, Tanith. Mortal Suns. Woodstock: The Overlook Press, 2003.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Quick Review: Heart Beast

Title: Heart-Beast
Author: Tanith Lee
Themes: werewolves, curses, love, lust
Rating: **

Plot: After the killing of his brutal father, golden and handsome Daniel Vehmund has sought refuge in an exotic faraway land. But his contentment is shattered when a fabulous diamond is pressed on him by a sinister graverobber. From that first fatal contact, Daniel is doomed each night of the full moon to become something else ... something dark and powerful and savage. And nothing that originates on this earth can destroy him

Laura, a beautiful redhaired farm-girl, lives with her two awful sisters and her selfish grasping parents in the remote English countryside. Apparently condemned to a life of drudgery, all is transformed when she is wooed and wed by a wealthy local squire. But this gilded existence is threatened when a travelling magician persuades her besotted husband to buy for her a very unusual diamond. For this gem is "The Wolf," the diamond that had so transformed Daniel Vehmund's destiny. And when he himself returns at last to England, his fate and Laura's are devastatingly intertwined ...
Meanwhile some dark, malignant presence continues to prowl the woodlands and hedgerows ... and seemingly nothing can curb its unquenchable bloodlust.

My Thoughts:
  • This is definitely one of Lee's more gruesome tales, with lots of (literal) gut-spilling and savage cruelty. While it does suit the theme and nature of the tale, of a sort of beastly possession, it can be a little overwhelming at times.
  • Another (I think) common Lee element also comes into play; the protagonist, female lead is more symbol than character. She is largely passive and "swept away" into larger, unfolding, events and eventually seems to represent values or emotions rather than motives or personality. This is especially true in Lee's Volkhavaar, if you are interested.
  • Yes this is a werewolf romance, but NO it is not like any popular titles I've seen out there. This is a surreal, gory, and violent story filled with gruesome murders, betrayals, and fear. I think it's safe to say that the romance could better be described as a bizarre compulsion/attraction that spells a doom for most of the book's cast.
Recommendation: Despite the surreal and surprising nature of this stand-alone novel, I am still on the fence about it. I would recommend for werewolf *horror* fans, of course to fans of Lee, but I am not sure of any other niche that this book would fit nicely into. If you have it and the time, go for it.

Similar Reads: Vivia by Tanith Lee

Random Quote: "So the village packed the church with its black and its sweat. They stared at Daniel, the stranger who had been away.

They agreed he was foreign, might have come from the tents of some desert tribe, or the gaudy bazaars (p. 204)."

Lee, Tanth. Heart-Beast. New York: Dell, 1992.