cover image The Devil's Diadem

The Devil's Diadem

Sara Douglass. Harper Voyager, $26.99 (544p) ISBN 978-0-06-200433-8

Douglass (The Infinity Gate) immerses the reader in a fully realized medieval world where the supernatural is taken for granted, but her story falls short. Maeb Langtofte inherited a noble name and not much else from her father. Her hopes of a secure future rest on serving as a lady-in-waiting to the house of Pengraic, but her place is imperiled by a devastating plague and Maeb's mutual attraction with the earl's son. Maeb must balance her desires and others' agendas, at the risk of her life and the lives of those she cares for. Unfortunately, the singular heroine gradually becomes a Mary Sue%E2%80%93style caricature: practically every man she encounters falls for her%E2%80%94even her own son praises her sexual attractiveness%E2%80%94and she alone survives an otherwise invariably fatal illness. This regrettable transformation costs the story much of its plausibility and charm. (Aug.)