cover image Walking the Labyrinth

Walking the Labyrinth

Lisa Goldstein. Tor Books, $21.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86175-9

Contemporary fantasy isn't Goldstein's forte. Her historical and otherworldly reveries (Summer King, Winter Fool, etc.) can dazzle, but the modern world seems to confound her storytelling in this novel set in today's San Francisco, just as it did in Tourists (1989). Here, odd-job typist Molly Travers is searching for her mysterious ancestors. Through a series of increasingly unlikely coincidences, she learns that she is a descendant of the Allalie clan. Originally adepts of the 19th-century English Order of the Labyrinth, the Allalies migrated in the 1930s to the American vaudeville stage, where they used their assorted extrasensory talents to ""change people's lives."" Molly's journey takes her on a magical mystery tour, but it's one in which Goldstein fumbles the cards and drops the white rabbit on the floor. Her prose is flat and arhythmic, with the many family diaries and letters that Molly discovers revealing the author's ignorance of Victorian locution. The characters are simple, and the plotting is obvious. There's some charm to Molly's discovery of magic in the everyday world, but it's not enough to make this one of Goldstein's memorable outings. Hopefully her next will forsake our world for a more enchanted one. (June)