Science fiction and fantasy                                            


by Anne Bishop


The first book of the Ephemera series marks something of a departure for Anne Bishop. The world of Ephemera is divided into a myriad of small landscapes, mostly disconnected from each other. It's a totally psychological environment, shaped by emotions. In Sebastian Anne Bishop is moving away from feminist and political themes to focus on the realm of the human heart.

Our hero Sebastian is a dissatisfied half-incubus, bored with vice. He lives in the Den of Iniquity, a place where drinking, gambling and whoring are the main industries. As an incubus he should fit right in, but his human half makes him feel like an outsider even here, in this haven of nonconformity.

The Den is one of the creations of Glorianna Belladonna, Sebastian's cousin and a gifted but rogue Landscaper. Landscapers have the magical ability to transform the environment, allowing good or evil to thrive in a certain place. Meanwhile Bridges are men with the talent to connect or disconnect these places.

Because in Ephemera, more than any magical world, normal spacetime does not apply. The world has been shattered into tiny pieces, and travelling in one direction does not always take you to the same place. People tend to travel according to their hearts, rather than according to normal geography.

A mysterious creature known as the Eater of the World has been imprisoned for centuries, but its prison walls are now weakening. Its escape could cause destruction and despair on a terrifying scale. The Eater is perhaps Ephemera's darkest inhabitant, but it is not the only horror. Anne Bishop introduces us to waterhorses, bull demons, Dark Guides, and a host of other creatures, creating a whole new magical world that is every bit as original and refreshing as the Black Jewels universe.

The Eater is itself a creation of the human heart, and for the inhabitants of Ephemera the worst evil is often within themselves. Sebastian is afraid to express his sexuality, because he believes it is too dangerous and destructive. He is also discovering that he has powers that he is afraid to use. This is a novel about the fear of our own desires, and of what is inside us. It's about acknowledging the darkness in us all.

Sebastian is something of a split personality: part human, part incubus; part good, part evil. He is not sure where he belongs in the world, or which part of his personality is dominant. The character of Lynnea is also on a journey of self-discovery, learning how to come out of her shell and be more assertive.

This book slowly draws you in, building up momentum as the novel progresses. Anne Bishop has clearly not lost her touch for extremely sensual and passionate writing. And her taste for a dash of highly explicit violence is unabated, so this is not a novel for the easily offended.

Although this is obviously the first in a series of Ephemera novels, the ending is still very satisfying. This book comes to a conclusion, rather than leaving the reader hanging with too many unanswered questions. That's certainly not to say that you will not want to read more about these characters, quite the opposite. Sebastian is a striking fantasy full of absorbing characters and stunningly visceral landscapes.

Book Details

Year: 2006

Categories: Books

    Male Protagonist  
  Not For The Squeamish  

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
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