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Carousel Tides
Sharon Lee
Baen, 397 pages

Carousel Tides
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Sharon Lee was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. She now lives in Central Maine. In 1997, Sharon Lee was hired by SFWA as the organization's first full-time executive director.

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller Website
ISFDB Bibliography: Sharon Lee
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alma A. Hromic

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Look, I've always had a weakness for carnies and for merry-go-rounds and for things and places that are not really real, where the edges of the world blur into something that is definitely not mundane and the veils tear and stuff slips through in ways that it could not possibly do anywhere else. Also, I've been to some of these lost and forgotten little towns which once had a heyday and now exist balanced on some precarious edge, where stores selling desperate bric-a-brac rub shoulders with stores that sell nothing at all any more and haven't for years, places where old piers stand abandoned and rotting and old fairy lights flicker and swing in the cold wind off the sea when nobody's there to see them.

These are the places that Sharon Lee brings to life in Carousel Tides -- and not just to ordinary life, but infuses them with magic of every ilk, from the tiny sparks that dwell in imp or gremlin to the fiery sweeping power of the great mages whose battles incinerate those who are unlucky enough to be in the way and sometimes without the battling magic users not even having been aware that the casualties were ever there. She speaks in the sure and vivid voice of Kate -- who is not at all what she seems to be, who is an exile from just such a weird old place with its shuttered carnival attractions out on the Maine coast next to a great grey sea -- and Kate has more problems than she knows what to do with, and they seem to multiply like gnats every time she turns around. But what a gallery of allies she collects on the way -- a selkie, a Guardian of the Sea, a Fire Mage, a Lady of the Wood, a shapechanger who swans round town as a calico cat sometimes, and a bunch of perfectly ordinary people who just happen to make good dumplings and serve up hot coffee when it's necessary. And what a gallery of rogues rise to stand in her way -- Black Dogs with slavering jaws and other, worse, things that turn up on the Maine beaches at the turn of the tide, not to mention a great grim nemesis who will stop at nothing to get what he wants even if means the destruction of Absolutely Everything.

Carousel Tides is a virtuoso ride, full of the spirit of the carnival, fully aware of the thinness of the veil between the worlds and expert at managing to twitch it aside just enough to matter. It's a rollicking tale full of non-stop action -- stuff is happening all the time -- there's barely a quiet moment -- and yet there's also a quiet at its heart, because there really is this magic in everything and Sharon Lee knows how to spin it. She is a writer at the top of her game. Reading this book many might think that it was easy -- because it is so smooth and she stays so potently and completely in character, never slipping out of her protagonist's skin and persona, keeping the narrative voice steady and perfectly balanced -- but this book is steeped in her years of experience as a storyteller. Just enough information is given at any one point to keep the plot poised on the balls of its feet and rolling forward all the time; just enough is at stake at any one point to make it all teeter on a brink; it's all real magic and there isn't any fake CGI.

Thoroughly enjoyed Carousel Tides. A beautiful relaxing read, delivered by a master storywright.

Copyright © 2011 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves." When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Her international success, The Secrets of Jin Shei, has been translated into ten languages worldwide, and its follow-up, Embers of Heaven, is coming out in 2006. She is also the author of the fantasy duology The Hidden Queen and Changer of Days.


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