cover image Dancing Bears

Dancing Bears

Fred Saberhagen. Tor Books, $23.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85798-1

Fantasy and historical fiction blend well in this tale of were-bears in Russia on the brink of its 1917 Revolution. American John Sherwood goes with his friend Gregori Lohmatski to hunt a man-eating bear on Gregori's estate, only to find that the peasants' stories of men turning into bears are true. The heart of the book is an exploration of the savagery and abuses of power of both the czar's men and the revolutionaries, against which the ability to become a beast proves both helpful and, ironically, humane. When the manipulations of Gregori's power-hungry brother lead to Gregori's imprisonment, Sherwood and the incarcerated man's sister flee east across Russia to escape prison themselves and to free Gregori. Despite the panoramic scenery, the cultural and historical detail sometimes seems sparse. Still, the characters are very strong, and the suspense generated by their plight will engross most readers as Saberhagen (Merlin's Bones) weaves another satisfying story of the supernatural. (Jan.)