Tuesday, 18 December 2001

Marion Zimmer Bradley & Holly Lisle: Glenraven (1996)

Edition: Baen Books, 1997
Review number: 1016

One of the perennial difficulties for the fantasy novelist who wants to involve earthly characters is how to take them to the scene of the action. (Once there, they pay the author back by requiring explanations of what is around them, making exposition easier and seemingly more natural.) I don't recall the precise device used in Glenraven occurring anywhere else, however, and it is always nice to see something new.

When Jayjay's marriage breaks up, she finds a travel guide to the tiny European country of Glenraven in a bookstore. She has never heard of it, but it sounds enchanting; she and a friend go there together. In fact, Glenraven is a magical kingdom, and Jayjay and Sophie have been summoned as the heroes to save it from an evil ruler who is destroying it. That means that the two of them are not going to have quite the holiday they expected...

In recent fantasy, the most similar scenario to that of Glenraven is that of Terry Brooks' Magic Kingdom For Sale - Sold. Glenraven is not as lightweight as that novel, and doesn't exploit its subject for humorous purposes. (It does make a dig at much of the fantasy genre for minimising the squalor and misery inherent in the medieval setting.) The novels draws on the strengths of both writers, as a collaboration should, Bradley softening the brutality sometimes present in Lisle's work while gaining more of an edge. Glenraven also has a feminist agenda; it is in the still unusual position of having female heroes (and the cover picture interestingly suggests that this is not the case). This is an enjoyable novel which deserves to be better known.

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