cover image If I Pay Thee Not in Gold

If I Pay Thee Not in Gold

Piers Anthony, Launius Anthony. Baen Books, $20 (398pp) ISBN 978-0-671-72175-6

This clumsy collaboration between Anthony (the Xanth novels) and Lackey (the Heralds of Valdemar series) is a wasted effort. In the militaristic matriarchy of Mazonia, only women can use magic and men are slaves. Xylina, an impoverished orphan, enters the public combat required of all girls as a rite of passage and wins ownership of an intelligent but vicious and bitter male gladiator. Xylina and her slave become friends with amazing speed, and he sets out to help her use her magical abilities to earn money and to rise in society. Mysterious disasters repeatedly befall Xylina, who eventually discovers she has made a powerful enemy. She also has a powerful ally, but getting help from that quarter may cost her more than she can afford. One or two intriguing ideas here are eclipsed by stilted dialogue and an insipid plot in which the heroine spends half the book worrying about finances and the other half on a dull quest. Anthony's fans will recognize the Xanth-like magic and politics, while Lackey's readers will appreciate the besieged but plucky heroine. But neither group will enjoy this talky, over-long tale that seems to bring out the worst in each writer. (July)