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2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
Editor:  Ernest Lilley
Associate Editor: Sharon Archer


Aug02 Contents
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Editorial License
US Books
UK Books
Can Books

CanVention 22 and the Aurora Awards
If It's Tuesday, this must be TOR

Feature Interview:
Ken Macleod

Feature Review: Cosmonaut Keep by Ken Macleod

BBook Reviews
The Alchemists Door
by Lisa Goldstein
Alternate Generals II
ed by Harry Turtledove
Argonaut by Stanley Schmidt
Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks
The Iron Grail by John Woodstock
The Sacred Pool by L. Warren Douglas
The Sky So Big And Black by John Barnes
Spaceland by Rudy Rucker
Straw Men by
Michael Marshall Smith
Sisters of the Raven by Barbara Hambly
To Trade The Stars by Julie E. Czerneda
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror
, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Graphic Novel:
Murder Mysteries. Original short story and radio play by Neil Gaiman. Graphic story script and art by P. Craig Russell
Zine: The Journal of Pulse Pounding Narratives

Austin Powers: GoldMember

Metropolis (2002) Restoration
& Metropolis Essay
PowerPuff Girls
Reign of Fire

The Sacred Pool by L. Warren Douglas
Baen Paperback: ISBN 0743435303 Jun 2002
Review by EJ McClure
336 pages List price $25.95  Purchase this book at Amazon .com

Though The Sacred Pool came out last year, I didn't get a chance to read it and now that it is out in paperback, I found it too good to pass up, for in this carefully crafted fantasy L. Warren Douglas breaks a trail worth following. To my delight, he avoids the easy drama of pitting the wondrous enchantments of Magic against a shrill, oppressive and narrow-minded Church, and offers instead a provocative look at the workings of magic as part of a system of beliefs that formed roots of the pagan culture of Provence. It took patience to work through the leisurely narrative of Pierrette's girlhood in the ancient town of Citharista in Provence, but the complexity of the idea Douglas is exploring merits the diligent groundwork.

Pierrette's father, Gilles, ekes out a meager living between his olive grove and fishing boat, barely managing to feed his family and pay taxes to their Burgundian overlord. Her older sister Marie moons after one of the local lads. For father and daughter life is made up of simple needs and fears. It is Pierrette who yearns for more; she takes after her mother, Elen, the masc whose arcane skills roused the fury of the villagers on a night of fire and bloodshed no one can forget, though many pretend not to remember. But good and evil are not as simple as the Church would have the peasants believe.

Pierrette has one great friend: Guihen, a sprite of mischief and feathers. Whether he real or imaginary, she is not quite sure; only she can see him, but even as a child, she is aware that she is different. She dreams of a Golden Man who comforts her childish woes, but she also dreams of a dead land at the far end of time, a wilderness of blackened stumps and dry, ashy ground. The crone who guides her through that terrifying vision of the future warns her that she is the last -- but one -- who can prevent that dreadful vision from coming true . . . but in order to do that, she must choose the path to knowledge, wherever it leads. Though she does not fully understand what the crone means, Pierrette undertakes the challenge in order to save the sacred pool, for it is her wellspring and her last link with her mother. The narrative picked up steam once Pierrette begins her apprenticeship in arcane lore under the old mage, Anselm. In his fortress on Eagle's Beak, where it is always high noon, Pierrette slowly unravels the mysteries of geometry, history, religion and magic. As she studies, she begins to see how everything connects, and from that realization she begins to develop her own theory about how and why magic works, and why it works differently in different places. But she does not have all the time in the world. Greed and lust cause tragedy on the eve of Marie's wedding, and Pierrette realizes she must put her theories into practice if she is to save her sister and her friends.

Douglas does a wonderful job of evoking medieval Provence. You can feel the fierce mistral winds, smell the rosemary that grows in the crevices of the crumbling limestone rocks, and taste the ripe black olives. You live with the peasants' fear of Saracen pirates, Frankish kings and Burgundian soldiers, and worst of all, the fear of eternal damnation. But though the doctrine of the Church is intolerant of the old ways, P'er Otho, the local priest, proves to be one of Pierrette's strongest allies.

Douglas' fable rests on a mountain of careful research; in fact, it is driven not by character, but by the ideas he is exploring through the construct of the story. The real magic is that The Sacred Pool manages to be intellectually stimulating and entertaining in equal measure. All things in balance.

EJ McClure is a frequent contributor to SFRevu. When she isn't reading or writing Fantasy or playing in her Norfolk VA herb garden, she's out keeping the world safe for democracy as a LTCMDR in the US Navy.