Belladonna (Ephemera #2)
by Anne Bishop
Cover Artist: Larry Rostant
Review by Drew Bittner
Roc Hardcover Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451461261
Date: 06 March, 2007 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In Sebastian, the demonic "Eater of the World" broke loose from its age-old imprisonment with the help of corrupt and evil allies. Held at bay only by Glorianna Belladonna, despised outcast and last holder of Ephemera's greatest magic, the Eater has not given up its plans to subjugate all of Ephemera...
And it will, unless a wandering musician can find his heart's desire--and a young woman with a scarred heart can dare to find love and risk it all to save the world.
Anne Bishop takes her tale of the shattered magical realm of Ephemera to a new level in Belladonna, sequel to Sebastian. The main characters return, with the addition of Michael--a young musician with powerful but unrealized magic of his own. Guided by a whisper on the wind, he seeks his heart's desire, little realizing it will take him into dangers he cannot even imagine.
The Eater of the World has not been idle since its previous defeat. If anything, it is busier than ever, as it spreads fear, hatred and confusion through the "bright" lands (where good is stronger than evil). By doing so, it intends to tip the land's emotional and ethical balance toward evil, making its takeover that much easier. It makes attacks on benevolent landscapes as well, launching a devastating attack against a Light stronghold only to be foiled at the last minute by Glorianna.
Glorianna has the power of the ancient Landscapers, who broke Ephemera into myriad landscapes to save it from the Eater. Unfortunately, her temper and reputation have made her a pariah, such that only those like her cousin Sebastian (a half-incubus and ruler of his own semi-dark landscape) will stand by her. She realizes that time is short and the Eater must be fought--but even the handful who might help refuse.
Glorianna's quest takes her across the dangerous landscapes of Ephemera, even to the glorious White Isle itself, while the Eater and its allies work to overthrow the Light. Michael and Glorianna meet, but the course of true love is never smooth... and Michael has secrets and fears of his own that make matters even more complicated.
Ultimately, the key to saving the world rests in the most unlikely hands. But it takes a strong hand and steady heart to use that key, because it represents the ultimate risk: the unmaking of all Ephemera, playing right into the Eater's hands...
Although the heroes of Sebastian are all present and accounted for--Sebastian, Lynnea, Lee, Jeb, Nadia, Teaser and more-- as well as new friends like Yoshani and Caitlin Marie, this is really Glorianna and Michael's story. It's about the redemptive power of love and what it means to trust in love absolutely, and then risk one's heart for the safety and survival of others.
The theme of the outcast heroine is a classic one, which Bishop invests with new life. Glorianna is not a trite, two-dimensional and stupidly selfless woman; she is bold and passionate and daring, angry at the foolishness of those far less powerful, yet wounded deep inside and distrustful of the possibility of love. She has amazing power and the skill to use it, but her flaws and foibles make her less than a goddess and more like a real person.
Similarly, Michael could have been a stock romantic hero-- good-looking and possessing lots of untapped potential, sure, but no more than that-- yet he evolves from a lonely wanderer into a heroic Magician fit to stand with Glorianna. It's a great transformation and skillfully written.
Bishop tells a powerful and emotional tale, set in a land of dazzling complexity and deep magic. (It would take quite awhile to explain the interplay between the Light, the Dark, the landscapes and bridges and magical artifices that make up Ephemera--better to read it and experience that aspect of the story for yourself.) The tone is definitely adult in nature and not for younger readers, but those who enjoy sophisticated, mature (in the best sense of the world) and original epic fantasy will be well rewarded by spending time in Ephemera.