Tuesday, May 21, 2013

With A Tangled Skein - Piers Anthony

    1985; 380 pages.  New Author? : No.  Book 3 (out of 8) in the Incarnations of Immortality series.  Genre : Fantasy; Series.  Overall Rating : 4½*/10.

    Niobe is going to shed a lot of tears.  Her young husband, Cedric, has just been shot, and now she’s learned that she was the intended target.  Even worse, the whole thing was plotted by Satan himself.

    Niobe will move Heaven and Earth to get Cedric back.  But if that won’t work, she will somehow find a way to take her revenge on Satan.  You could say there is going to be Hell to pay.  It’s Fate.

What’s To Like...
    As with the previous books in this series, a new “Incarnation” is showcased in With A Tangled Skein.  This time it’s Fate; in the first two books we met Death and Time.  Once again, Piers Anthony cleverly tweaks the mythology – here he puts all three Fates (Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos) in one body; they are separate entities in Greek legend.  If you liked the plotline in the first two books, you’ll be happy here too – it’s the same thing.  A mortal is thrust into the role of an Incarnation, runs afoul of Satan, and bests him in a contest.

    There are also some serious weaknesses; most notably the writing and the storytelling.  It feels like the target audience is Young Teens, and Piers Anthony gets incredibly repetitive as if he’s worried that the reader isn’t grasping some basic concepts – Niobe loves Cedric, Satan can’t hurt an Incarnation, etc.

   There are meaningless tangents, among them a quest to procure a pair of magical items.  Major characters die out on a whim.  And we get some of the author’s personal – but irrelevant – views on diverse things such as Ted Kennedy, the UN, and the IRS.  There are some neat twists – the deer get to shoot back at the hunters – but even these have no bearing on the main Niobe-vs.-Satan plotline.

Kewlest New Word...
Welkin (noun) : The sky; the vault of heaven; the firmament.

    (A)n old black woman sat in her rocking chair on a rickety porch, watching children play handball in the street.  She looked up as Atropos appeared before her.  “’Bout time you got here,” she remarked.
    Even Atropos was taken aback by this.  “You know me?”
    I know you.  I was expecting Death, though, not Fate.”
   “I have come to ask you to take my place.  If you do, you will meet Death only as a business associate.”
    “I thought he already was.  I’ve buried more kin than I can count on my hands.”  (pg. 223)

    Clotho’s temper flared again.  She spoke a few sharp words in Japanese.
    Mars smiled.  “And you are the mother of a sickly dog,” he responded in the same language.  Niobe and Atropos picked up the meaning from Clotho’s mind.
    Clotho was aghast.  “You understood!”
    “Sweet stuff, War knows every language of mankind!  If you wish to quarrel, you have come to the right party.”  (pg. 261)

“When an unscheduled death occurs, the threads of Fate tangle.”  (pg. 60)
    The big problem with With A Tangled Skein is the sexism.  Here’s a couple examples :
    “She was no muscular man...” (329)
    “...not for a weak, middle-aged woman...”  (343)
    “A man may have leaped across; she had no such hope...”  (349)
    Wow.  Is the author trying to give young female readers a low self-image or what?!

    But even that pales in comparison to rape.  Apparently, guys can demand rape as compensation for losing face, and girls who find themselves in that situation are advised to just lay back and enjoy it.  Words fail me.

    This is probably as far as I go with this series.  My reviews of the first two books are here and here.  4½ Stars.  Add one star you haven’t read any other Incarnations of Immortality books; the plotline will be fresher.  And if you have a young daughter, hide this book someplace where she’ll never find it.

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