Saturday, July 14, 2007

A tantalizing fantasy novella

In the introduction to the book, Phyllis Eisenstein writes that Walker Between the Worlds is an excerpt from the first volume of a trilogy-in-progress that is called The Masks of Power: "It is the tale of the long-dead DragonKing, who had made human folk into slaves, and of a Lady of Air and Darkness, who holds the balance of power among the New Gods who ended the reign of the dragons."

The book opens with the Eleanor, the Lady of Masks, out hunting on dragonback with her guardsmen when she discovers a naked man on the cold hillside. He is from another world (our earth, it seems), but he wears a medallion around his neck that bears the symbol of the Lady. He has no memory - not even of his own name, but Eleanor recognizes him as an apparent descendant of a man she was in love with years earlier, before she became immortal, a man who is long dead. She pulls a wraith - a sort of spirit semblance - from the man and takes him with her. The true man she leaves behind, to awaken alone, cold, and bewildered.

The book alternates between the points of view of Eleanor, the man the hillside, and Rob, a young peasant boy who lives on a nearby farm. The tale woven by these three points of view is fascinating, with tantalizing glimpses into the connections between the characters and the strange ways of this world.

My only problem with the book was that it was just what the author said it was - an excerpt from a longer trilogy. And I want the trilogy now. While the novella does have a narrative arc and won't leave you hanging in the middle of an exciting moment, the stage is clearly being set for something complex and intriguing, and I'm looking forward to learning more about these compelling characters and this world where dragons have turned from masters into servants.

If you are not familiar with Phyllis Eistenstein's novels, you are in for a treat. And if you don't believe me, here are a few words from George R. R. Martin:

"Phyllis Eisenstein does it all: hard sf, soft sf, fantasy, horror, time travel, space opera, even the occasional western. What's even more remarkable is that Phyllis does it all well...which makes every Phyllis Eisenstein story an event, and every Phyllis Eisenstein book a treasure. Whether she is writing about Alaric the teleporting minstrel or Wyatt Earp, Phyllis is always entertaining and frequently extraordinary. If you haven't read her stuff, you missed a lot. "

A friend of mine brought me this book back from a Fantasy/sf convention in Kansas City, where Phyllis was the writer guest of honor - it appears that the novella is unavailable through Amazon, but it can be ordered from KaCSFFS Press by emailing the publisher at And it's a nicely made book as well, with lovely thick pages and a beautiful, sturdy spine. Plus the art on the cover by Ed Emshwiller, my favorite vintage sf artist, is a special added bonus.

Walker Between the Worlds by Phyllis Eisenstein (KaCSFFS Press, 2007)

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