(cover image from Amazon.com)
Marianne, the Magus, and the Manticore (1985) by Sheri S. Tepper is the first in a fantasy trilogy (though this story is complete in itself) which has been out of print for awhile and very hard to find. Lucky for me, a friend found the whole trilogy and sent it to me when she finished it. (Thanks, Kate!)
You see, I'd been wanting these books, because I have other friends, whose tastes tend to match my own, who've recommended them. And I'm a fan of Sheri Tepper, anyway. Grass and The Gate to Women's Country are my favorite Tepper books, but I've enjoyed nearly everything I've read by her.
Tepper writes from a very pronounced feminist perspective. In fact, I feel I would have known the author of this book even if her name hadn't been on the cover. Now, I don't want an author's philosophy to get in the way of the story, even when I agree with it (as I generally do in Tepper's case). But Tepper usually - not always - avoids that. She can hit us over the head sometimes, but she still tells a good story (as she does here).
Marianne is a young woman who's been victimized by her half-brother since her parents died. He tried to rape her when she was just 13, he continues to have full control over her inheritance, and, as it turns out, he's been attacking her with magic for years. Marianne resists, passively.
It's easy to sympathize with Marianne, but I had a harder time actually liking her. She is such a victim. She won't stand up for herself, she's timid beyond belief, and while that's understandable, it's not particularly likable.
She's such a victim that even the good guy in the book sees her, at least in part, as sexual prey. That guy is much older than her, too, which seems a bit creepy. It's not that Marianne is a child, since she's 25 when the book begins. But she seems so much younger. Emotionally, she still seems 13.
And given that this guy also looks just like her half-brother - indeed, he's some kind of relative, since they're all part of an apparently inbred clan - well, that's rather creepy, too. None of this is truly disturbing - it's not that bad - but it did seem a bit creepy.
As it turns out, magic exists. And Marianne's half-brother takes orders from a powerful mage, a woman, who casts Marianne into a magical world, a very bleak world, without even her memories. Marianne survives, passively.
To this point, I was still wondering if I really liked Marianne - or really liked the book, in fact. True, the magic realm is very imaginative. I did enjoy that. But as I say, Marianne was such a victim that it was easier to sympathize with her than really like her.
Well, by the end of the book, Marianne is no longer a victim. Indeed, she becomes rather scary. It takes awhile, but eventually she gets angry - and I mean angry! Her solution to this situation is rather disturbing in itself.
I really liked the ending. I could understand her anger, and it was plausible (given the fantasy premise, of course) that her anger would finally explode like this. Finally, she's no longer a victim! But with this much anger, she could very definitely turn into a villain, herself. Has she?
I doubt if that's where this trilogy is going, but I have to wonder. I liked Marianne a lot more once she got angry enough to stop being a victim. But I'm still not sure I really like her, given the results of that anger. And I'm not entirely sure I like the man who fought to rescue her, either. It's something to think about.
I did like the book, and I'll be reading the sequel eventually.
Note: My other book reviews, including others by Sheri Tepper, are here.