The Book of the Mad

Tanith Lee, Author Overlook Press $19.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-87951-481-5
Best known for the Flat Earth series, Lee creates here a characteristically surreal and dark fantasy, her fourth (following The Book of the Dead ) set in the ancient, decadent city of Paradys. This time, three interconnected narratives present three alternate versions of the city. In modernistic Paradis, the eccentric, misanthropic painter Leocadia is trapped in an insane asylum by relatives scheming to grab her wealth. In Victorian-style Paradys, a tragic obsession shatters the sheltered life of young, bourgeois Hilde. In nightmarish Paradise, bloodthirsty twins Felion and Smara believe themselves to be the only sane people in a city of lunatics. Linking these disparate experiences are the theme of madness and a mysterious ice labyrinth that holds the promise of redemption. Lee's languid, brooding prose has a sensuality reminiscent of Anais Nin's. Hilde's tragedy is genuinely poignant, her despair powerfully portrayed, but the other characters are often self-consciously strange, and the plot drags when they transmit their ennui to the reader. However, this highly original story, notable for its unpredictable plot twists, will appeal to readers desiring a dreamlike excursion into the bizarre. Lee's fans will not be disappointed. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/28/1993
Release date: 07/01/1993
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