Sebastian (Ephemera #1)
by Anne Bishop
Review by Drew Bittner
Roc Hardcover Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0451460731
Date: 07 February, 2006 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
However, he is not unopposed. A half-incubus named Sebastian, who lives and works in the "dark landscape" known as the Den of Iniquity, is drawn into events as the Eater's allies and enemies revive their ancient war. His cousin, Glorianna Belladonna (the most infamous and powerful Landscaper of this age), is the target of wizards who serve as Justice Makers in the shattered landscapes; they claim she played a role in setting the Eater loose, which Sebastian knows is a lie.
At the same time, a girl is banished from her hellish foster home, only to see her sadistic foster brother destroyed by the Eater. She flees, to find herself in the Den and in Sebastian's care. Coming to terms with her new life, Lynnea gives Sebastian much to think about, as danger grows to threaten the Den and his hated father (a wizard) comes to ask for his help.
But will this request be a trap? And what will Sebastian's friends and family risk to bring him home safe and sane? If nothing else, perhaps true justice will be meted out...
Anne Bishop's newest work calls to mind series by notables such as Philip Jose Farmer (World of Tiers) and Jack Chalker (Flux and Anchor). All of these writers explore the implications of creation, and the responsibilities that creators have to what they have wrought. The philosophical depth of the work is woven into the adventure and exploits of the main characters, but it nevertheless informs the work with additional dimensions. In this, Anne Bishop reaches a new level of mastery as a writer.
Ephemera is a fascinating setting for this new series. Each landscape is either light or dark, with its nature determined by the hearts of those who live there. They are joined by bridges (created by Bridges such as Glorianna's brother Lee), some of which take the crosser to wherever their heart calls them (as Lynnea was taken to the Den, a dark landscape that called to her because of Sebastian's need). The rules are complex but consistent, and the malleable nature of the landscapes plays an integral role in the story as it unfolds.
Sebastian is a terrific character. He is an outsider who only gradually realizes that the Den itself is home for a reason. Though brave, he doesn't want to lead until he realizes that leadership is his destiny--the horrors of the Eater of the World cannot be locked out by Glorianna's power alone. He must summon up the power to resist from the core of his own heart, or the Eater will win.
Similarly, Bishop has created a worthy heroine-in-training in Lynnea, who rises above her brutal childhood to love without reservation or shame. In her, Sebastian finds both an anchor and a reason to fight--which is what great romance is all about.
Among the rest, there is a cast of standouts. Glorianna is a fantastic presence, a nascent goddess who may be the sole hope of Ephemera. Her many facets--and the many ways in which her world sees her--are complex and sometimes seem contradictory, until Bishop gives us more understanding of her past and her inner nature. Her byplay with Lee, her brother, carries both the warmth of sibling teasing and the incipient sting that comes with fear of loss.
Speaking of teasing, Sebastian's buddy Teaser represents the sidekick who may yet grow to be a hero. A half-incubus like Sebastian, Teaser shows increasing depth and unsuspected courage as the story continues. It is very likely he'll play a pivotal role in the future, as his heart expands with the first glimmerings of love and respect, after a lifetime of lust and carnal satiation.
There are many more who could be described, along with several intricacies of the plot and the setting, but that might deprive the reader of a chance to encounter these heroes, villains, common folk and places for themselves.
In the meantime...highly recommended.