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Beauty
Sheri S. Tepper
Millennium, Victor Gollancz, 477 pages


Sir Edward Burne-Jones
Beauty
Sheri S. Tepper
Sheri Stewart Tepper was born (in 1929) and raised in Colorado. For many years, she worked for various non-profit organizations, including the international relief organization, CARE, and she was the executive director of Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood, responsible for the administration of about 30 medical clinics in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. In 1983, she left her job to become a full-time writer. She is the author of several acclaimed novels, including The Family Tree, Gibbon's Decline and Fall, Shadow's End, A Plague of Angels, Sideshow, and Beauty, which was voted Best Fantasy Novel of the Year by the readers of Locus magazine. She has also published novels using the pseudonyms of E.E. Horlak, B.J. Oliphant and A.J. Orde.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Fresco
SF Site Review: Singer from the Sea
SF Site Review: Six Moon Dance
SF Site Review: The Family Tree
SF Site Review: Gibbon's Decline and Fall

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Stephen M. Davis

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Beauty is certainly a clever book, with Sheri Tepper weaving together a number of faery tales in a novel that spans a thousand years and moves from this world, to a world of imagination, to the land of Faery, and to Hell itself for a short time.

The main character, Beauty, is half-Faery, and must find a way, early in the novel, to avoid marriage, shipment to a nunnery, and a curse that states she will prick her finger on a spindle on her 16th birthday, falling into a sleep for a hundred years.

Beauty succeeds in avoiding these fates by making use of a half-sister who, conveniently, can pass for Beauty to those who are not well-acquainted with the girl. As it turns out, this includes virtually everyone, for Beauty has spent her life ignored by the people around her, for reasons having to do with the strange disappearance of her mother, and the rumour that Beauty is both half-Faery and cursed.

Immediately after the curse is accidentally carried out on her half-sister, Beauty is whisked off to the early 21st century by a band of time-travellers who have arrived in medieval England to film one of the last manifestations of magic, as seen in the nearly-impenetrable hedge growing around the castle Beauty resides in with her family.

From this point, the plot grows immensely complicated, as Beauty goes in search of her mother, and also in search of the people who can tell her what it is that has been put inside her, and that she can feel within her. While this last mystery is benign in nature, it puts her into danger from the Dark Lord, who would like very much to have what Beauty unwillingly possesses within her.

While the novel is well-structured and shows Ms. Tepper's talent to good effect, there are some jarring moments that have less to do with the storyline than with the author's insistence on being too intrusive at times with her own philosophy. Most troubling of these is the assumption that an abhorrence towards abortion is a sign of our society's worship of the "gobblegod." There is also something deeply depressing in Ms. Tepper's repeated scenes in which evil people spawn evil children, stupid people spawn stupid children, and environment is powerless to change this blood inheritance.

Copyright © 2001 Stephen M. Davis

Steve Davis teaches at the University of New Orleans as an Instructor of English. He enjoys chess, strong black coffee, and books by authors who care enough to work at their craft.


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