cover image Dark Legend

Dark Legend

Jamake Highwater / Author Grove Press $21 (245p) ISBN 978-0-80

Highwater is always at his best when, as in The Primal Mind , he stays farthest away from any attempted depiction of real Native Americans and contents himself with transplanting European concepts to non-European settings. Such is the case in his new novel, which reworks the story of Wagner's Ring Cycle, setting it in a mythic pre-Columbian America teeming with gods, goddesses, sprites, giants and other supernatural beings, as well as a few Indians. An evil, power-greedy dwarf steals gold from a river where magical maidens are bathing. The thief is quickly captured and the gold (now shaped into a ring) restored, but Kuwai, lord of the sky, and his consort Amaru remain worried; the recovered treasure no longer shines. The Wagnerian plot line remains compelling, and Highwater's terse prose, which has seldom been better, works well in the mythic mode. Unfortunately, his characters remain vague archetypes whose dialogue is often stilted--a pitfall of the genre, which frequently assumes that primeval beings must always speak in formal, lofty tones. Still, fans of Highwater and high fantasy will find enough here to hold their attention. (Jan.)