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Reave the Just and Other Tales
Stephen R. Donaldson
Bantam Books, 370 pages

Reave the Just and Other Tales
Stephen R. Donaldson
Stephen R. Donaldson is the best-selling author of many books including the series: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and Mordant's Need. He has received various awards, including the first prize of the British Science Fiction Society and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Thomas Myer


The typical story in this masterfully prosed collection goes something like this:
good-natured person, going about his or her business, attracts the attention of mondo badness;
mondo badness whoops ass on good-natured person, persecuting him or her to the point of near death and/or destitution;
good-natured person digs down deep, finds some pluck and courage, and wins out in the end.

With some variations, of course. For instance, in "The Djinn Who Watches Over the Accursed," Fetim, although good-natured, is not really good: he cuckolds a very powerful man, who in turn casts a delicious curse upon his head:

In the name of the great father of djinn, let all those he loves be killed. Let him be readily loved -- and let all those who love him die in anguish. Let all his seed and all his blood be brought to ruin. Let horror cover the heads of all who befriend him. Let his friendship be a surer sign of death than any plague-spot. And let the djinn who watches over the accursed protect him, so that his sufferings cannot end.
Like I said, mondo badness.

"The Woman Who Loved Pigs" follows the pattern, but it is not until you're through with the tale that you realize the real protagonist of the story is the bad guy, and that it is priggish good seeking the end of his existence.

Ditto for "The Killing Stroke" -- even though the Black Archemage has imprisoned some very sympathetic characters, and tested them in deadly magical combat, you can't help but feel that the destruction of evil in a universe leaves it lopsided, and well, not as fun.

I hate (revile, shun, etc.) vampire stories. I just don't see the point. But "Penance" is a masterful vampire story, complete with a vivid siege by the forces of the High Cardinal Straylish, who wants nothing more than the destruction of the heretical Duke Obal and his hellspawn servant, Scriven. There are scenes that will sear you: Scriven feeding only from those soldiers already near death, because of an oath to Mother Church; the clinical and methodical auto-de-fé of an innocent woman who made the mistake of acquainting Scriven.

"Reave the Just" is a refreshing story of kinship wrapped in the familiar foil of country-bumpkin-seeks-love-potion-to-bed-the-foreign-succulent-woman. It's zigs and zags will enthrall you.

The one science fiction story, "What Makes Us Human," although a fine story in its own right, pales in comparison to the quality of the fantasy selections.

"Penance" is probably the best story of the lot, with "The Woman Who Loved Pigs" a very close second (we're talking nano-meters, here). The other stories are all good, far better than you will read in your average short story collection, all of them infested with inventive characters and fantastical aladdinesque settings.

Copyright © 1999 Thomas Myer

Thomas Myer is a technical writer with Cisco Systems, Inc. He divides his time between reading, writing, and doing research. He can also make a game of pool interesting. 

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