Today for “Readers Write.,” I’m welcoming guest reviewer Allison from the fun Geek Banter blog, who’s sharing a review of Threshold, by Sara Douglass, bestselling Australian fantasy writer and author of the epic Wayfarer Redemption saga before her untimely death in 2011.
There’s a giveaway at the end, so read on.
Though young for the trade, Tirzah is a talented glassworker, trained by her father. When her father’s debts grow too large to pay off, they are both taken from their home to be sold as slaves in the southern land of Ashdod. They are forced to help construct a massive pyramid called Threshold, a thing of magic that the magi of the land are building in order to reach Infinity, an otherworldly place where unimaginable power supposedly awaits them. The Master of the Magi sees Tirzah as a plaything despite her talents, a slave to do with as he pleases. He also knows she’s hiding something, and she struggles to conceal from him her knowledge of forbidden magic, knowledge that would get her killed, and that makes her aware of the wrongness of Threshold. For something waits in Infinity, something horrible, and it’s ready to step through Threshold and into Ashdod.
A SCENE I’D READ TWICE:
There’s a scene I really love later on the book, but it would spoil too much, so I won’t describe it here. One of the first scenes that really drew me into the story was when Tirzah and her father are being handed off from a slaver to the Magi, and the Magi does not believe Tirzah can “cage,” or perform the most delicate art of glassworking, because at nineteen she is too young and caging is the work of masters. The Magi gives Tirzah a piece of glass that is in terrible condition with fracture lines running through it, and commands her to prove that she can cage. Tirzah has to do the impossible by creating something beautiful out of something worthless to save her life, and it is the moment we realize there is something special about her, and that her abilities are more than just talent.
I DIDN’T QUITE BUY:
It’s not that I didn’t buy it, but I did find second half of the book very different from the first. The first half is an exploration of the world and characters, filled with the looming danger of Threshold and the fear of being discovered and destroyed. The second half is more of a traditional fantasy quest, and characters discovering more about their abilities in their attempt to rid the world of a horrible evil. I enjoyed it, but I liked the first half better as it was unique.
As always, Douglass masterfully weaves mythology and magic into her fantasy world. The Magi are more mathemeticians than magicians, and follow the way of the One–a way that leads them to be harsh, cruel, and calculating. They have stamped out, or tried to, the forbidden elemental magic that used to exist in the land. Tirzah comes to learn about this elemental magic and the way things used to be before the Magi took over, and the contrast is vivid between the harsh, dangerous Threshold in the desert and the elementals from the plains and lakes.
All the characters change by the end of the book, which I love. How could they not after going through slavery and danger and life-threatening adventure? Tirzah grows in her abilities and her confidence, and becomes a heroine worthy of the title, also entering into a romance at first dangerous and terrifying. Other characters change in intriguing ways as well, but I can’t tell you how (spoilers!). I found it interesting that their enslavement drove her father away from her, rather than closer to her. It was sad to see him drift away over guilt when this was a time she needed him. Boaz, the Magi who takes interest in her, is fascinating to read about, torn between his rigid faith in the One and his obsession with Tirzah.
This is a wonderful tale of love and dicovery, darkness and magic. Douglass knows how to steep her world in mystery, magic, and mythology and create indepth characters that you care about. It is also a standalone novel, which can be refreshing after the commitment a whole series requires. I pick this one up when I am in the mood for a fantasy romance that is easy to read and emotionally riveting.
Allison is a sci-fi and fantasy writer, reader, gamer, and all around geek. You can find her writing, reviews, and thoughts on geek culture at her blog Geek Banter (http://alsgeekbanter.blogspot.ca/).
For Readers Write Giveaways:commenters on each review get an entry into a weekly Readers Write pool. At the end of the week, good old random.org will pick one to win his or her choice of the books in the Readers Write pool (or the first book in a series if a later series book is reviewed). Or one of the titles from the Book Horde (tab at the top of the page).
Interested in doing a guest review for Preternatura and telling us about a book you love? Email me and let me know. Reviews should be in a speculative fiction genre, and will include a link back to your website or blog.