Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Wed May 16 13:39:47 EDT 1990

Raymond's Reviews #56

%T Madouc
%A Jack Vance
%I Ace
%D May 1990
%O trade paperback, US$8.95
%P 426
%G 0-441-50531-7

In Madouc, Jack Vance continues (and perhaps concludes) the fantasy epic he began with Lyonesse and continued with The Green Pearl -- and a most delightful and marvellous job he does of it, too.

The setting is the Elder Isles; north of Iberia, south of Cornwall, west of Acquitaine -- a realm time-deep in history and magic, the green setting for the jewel-city of Ys and Avallon and Lyonesse, and other towns and castles and citadels and habitations great and small. Mossy dolmens brood in the wild places; here and there puissant magicians dwell, commanding the service of imps and sandestins and simulacra and creatures yet more bizarre. The tombs and traces of Pelasgians and Evadnioi, of Goth and Celt, of Romans and Lydians and Phoenicians and Daanans; all can be seen in the Isles and its people. Still on their bleak Foreshore the grim Ska dream apart over their three-thousand-year lineages; still the fairies of Thripsey Shee dance their roundels beneath the silver moon. And in farm, cottage, and castle most humans know nothing of these matters, nor care.

In Lyonesse, Vance has given us the story of the Isle's troubles after the death of Olam III, the last High King. War and intrigue and the ambitions of princes split the Isles into eleven fractious kingdoms. When Casmir, the ruthless King of Lyonesse, sought to unite them, he found his chiefest opposition in the islands of Troicinet and Dascinet. Their prince, the young and gallant Aillas, became involved with Casmir's daughter Suldrun while incognito, she bore him a child. The manner of Suldrun's death caused Aillas to swear a terrible vengeance against Casmir.

In The Green Pearl, the focus shifted to the magicians; to the duels of sorcery and intrigue which followed the witch Desmei's infection with the evil green essence of Xalbiste, and of the fates which befel those who defied the arch-wizard Murgen's edict not to enlist themselves in the wars of mortals.

In Madouc, we join the tale of the Princess Madouc, shown to the world as Suldrun's daughter but in fact a changeling substituted by the fairies of Thrpsey Shee. Casmir knows that Suldrun in fact had a son, and seeks his life; for the magic mirror Persilian prophesied that if that sun were to sit on the throne Evandig and take his place at the Table of Heroes, he and not Casmir would rule over Lyonesse. And indeed Suldrun's son Dhrun is alive and has rejoined his father, but Casmir does not know his identity. Casmir's priest, the scheming Father Umphred, does know...but he has his own goals.

Jack Vance has long been one of SF's finest prose stylists. For decades his rich and quirky descriptive style and his mordant, droll, ironic prose have been widely praised and occasionally imitated. In Madouc he is at the very top of his form, producing results of a quality very few contemporary fantasists could equal and none could unequivocally surpass.

Vance fans will find all the wit they expect, and newcomers to his work should be captivated by this fine expression of his unique talent. Madouc will certainly be one of the two or three best fantasy releases of 1990, and I recommend it enthusiastically.

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Wed May 16 13:39:47 EDT 1990

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>