Red Unicorn

Tanith Lee, Author Tor Books $20.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-312-86265-7
Lavish, whimsical dreamscapes reminiscent of Lewis Carroll, though without Carroll's elegant subtlety, mark Lee's third Unicorn novel (after Gold Unicorn, 1994). Princess Tanaquil is a daughter of the sorceress Jaive, who all but ignores her in favor of her husband-to-be, the sorcerer Worabex. Tanaquil's sister Lizra, meanwhile, is about to marry Tanaquil's beloved Honj, a soldier. Tanaquil works out her anger at her mother and her sister through an adventure in a parallel universe. Lee portrays Tanaquil's family angst with skill, but ubiquitous random events and characters whose eccentricities do nothing to further the story undermine her attempts to create mood. Even the resolution and the title figure, the Red Unicorn, a largely metaphorical presence, seem arbitrarily drawn. The psychology is preposterously simplistic and forced, with little moralisms substituting for insight. The whole novel feels carelessly tossed off and not what you'd expect from a World Fantasy Award winner. Still, the basic setup of the mirror world, where Tanaquil sees her own life in a diffracted form that enables her to understand and redeem it, is a good one, though hardly original. Lee's charming exuberance is everywhere in evidence too, no more so than in Tanaquil's familiar, a wonderfully comic, cavorting beasty. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/02/1997
Release date: 06/01/1997
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