Faces Under Water

Tanith Lee, Author
Tanith Lee, Author Overlook Press $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-87951-835-6
Paperback - 233 pages - 978-1-58567-245-5
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Lee (the Paradys series, etc.) throws more jeweled prose at the city of Venice than almost any writer since George Sand. People sleep under ""rose death sheets"" and roam in palazzi where the ceilings are painted with pictures of ""cloud blown Gods."" Except this isn't quite Venice. The canals are still there and Carnival is still that famous time of desire and revenge, but in Lee's alternate 15th century, Titian's Venice is combined with haunting references to Venusberg, where Tannhauser was tempted. The young man being tempted here is Furian, who from disgust has forsaken his wealthy parents and now plies various trades for the alchemist Schaachen. While trolling for corpses in the canal during Carnival, he comes upon an odd mask of Apollo. The mask, it turns out, belonged to a young musician who has drowned. Furian brings the mask back to Schaachen and, suddenly, Furian is a marked man. His wandelier (gondolier) is cut up into 11 pieces, like Osiris, and Schaachen is attacked. Furian seeks a motive, which leads him to Eurydiche, a woman whose face is frozen into statue-like beauty. Everything starts to fall in place for him when he meets her father, Lepidus, a traveler in the Marco Polo mode. Lepidus is the head of the Guild of Mask Makers and as such has assumed an occult power for himself, employing the magical arts of the distant peoples among whom he has traveled. But what does he want with Furian? And is Eurydiche simply a lure, or does she love Furian? This is a fast start to what promises to be an exciting, innovative fantasy series. (Aug.)
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