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Blade of Tyshalle
Matthew Woodring Stover
Del Rey, 736 pages

Blade of Tyshalle
Matthew Woodring Stover
Matthew Woodring Stover was born in 1962. He graduated in 1983 from Drake University and settled in Chicago. He worked as a bartender in a private sports club as well as spending time as an actor, theatrical producer, playwright, and theatre co-founder. His previous fantasy novels include Iron Dawn and Jericho Moon. He lives in Chicago, Illinois, with artist and writer Robyn Fielder.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Interview: Matthew Woodring Stover
SF Site Review: Heroes Die
SF Site Review: Jericho Moon

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Regina Lynn Preciado

I'm famous (in my own small circle) for spending entire weekends doing nothing but reading, for getting so caught up in stories that real-world interruptions like hunger, sleep, or work leave me totally disoriented. I may have called in sick a time or two so I could sleep off an all-night trilogy binge. I've recently changed careers, because in a two-month break from work I realized I am much happier when I have more time to read.

Despite my biblioholism, I only rarely find novels so intense that I must take time-outs to recover, akin to a marathon runner pausing for a sip of Gatorade before beginning the next mile. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series required a number of these light reposes, and so has each of Matthew Woodring Stover's four novels.

With Blade of Tyshalle, Stover returns to the caste-driven future Earth and Studio-exploited Overworld he introduced in Heroes Die. It's seven or so years after Caine's ultimate sacrifice -- you remember, the one that should have Made Everything All Better -- and the situation is even worse than it was before. Not that Caine's death was in vain, but powerful forces at work in both worlds have conspired to put millions of people in danger. And because heroes die, it seems we have no one left to save them.

Bummer, eh?

Over the course of 700-plus pages, Stover takes us on an adventure steeped in thought-provoking questions of ethics, morality, the abuse of power, betrayal, love, family, race, class, philosophy, self-respect, ego, politics, entertainment, and religion. And that's just for starters.

The intellectual blends seamlessly with the physical; I never felt tossed out of the story, or worse, like I'd accidentally slipped into a textbook instead. That's one of Stover's strengths as a writer -- his characters are so complex and involved that the Big Questions flow naturally from them, rather than sitting awkwardly on top as the author tries to overlay his agenda onto the story.

Stover's prose is graphic but not gratuitous, sensual but not sentimental; unlike other writers known for their style, he doesn't allow his facility with language to overpower his characters or their stories. However, his work is not for the faint-hearted. Sometimes it becomes downright relentless. I would quote a passage here to show you except that the novel is so integrated that anything taken out of context becomes almost a parody of itself. Blade of Tyshalle isn't meant to be divided into pithy one-liners.

While I remained engrossed in the story throughout, I did feel somewhat battered toward the end. Perhaps I shouldn't have read the whole thing in two days. Perhaps some of my feeling for George R.R. Martin's novels has leaked into this one, that there aren't enough "up" moments to give me a break from the torment and turmoil besieging the good guys. On the other hand, I admire Stover's ability to make me feel the novel this deeply.

Copyright © 2001 Regina Lynn Preciado

Regina Lynn Preciado lives in Los Angeles with her dog Jedi. You can see a picture of him.

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