Zettel - Usurper's Crown

August 13, 2005

Sarah Zettel
The Usurper's Crown : a novel of Isavalta
New York : Tor, 2003.
ISBN 0312874421

When I pick up one of Sarah Zettel's books I know that I may or may not like the book, but that the book itself will be good. It will be well written. The characters will have plausible motivations. The world will be fleshed out. There will be no plot holes or other flaws in the construction. The entire work will be, well, stable. It may or may not be compelling, but that is a statement about my reading and not her writing.

I found this one compelling.

This is book two of a three-part series about a family of women from Lake Superior who end up crossing between planes to a world of magic. I am sad to say that I let this one sit for a long time before blogging it, and so I forget many of the details, but what I remember I remember fondly.

The narrative involves a princess in the land of magic who has made a terribly bad marriage and whose husband has usurped her power. She tries to get things back, and does so with the help of a loyal wizard and the woman he brings with him from Lake Superior. There are extended meditations on duty and love, and on the relationship between familial expectations and personal action. Both the princess and the American lass face similar tensions, both challenge expectations, but one is more willing than the other to take responsibility. This will have consequences, for as I later learned the princess in the second volume is the old and grasping queen of the first book in the series.

The other interesting twitch is that Zettel leans on the worlds of central European folk myth for the creatures, not gods but powers in this earth, who dominate the space between the worlds. The Vixen is one, Baba Yaga is another. These are familiar yet dreadful creatures, and the characters have to maneuver amidst the plots and counterplots of the supernatural Great Powers.

That's about all I have to say about this one.

Posted by Red Ted at August 13, 2005 12:14 PM | TrackBack
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