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The Sacred Pool
L. Warren Douglas
Baen Books, 402 pages

Larry Elmore
The Sacred Pool
L. Warren Douglas
L. Warren Douglas was born in 1943. In 1970, he attended the Graduate School at Michigan State University, where he studied physical anthropology and archaeology. In 1972, Douglas taught anthropology and prehistory at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta. Returning to the USA, he worked as an artist for a regional planning commission and as a woodcarver. His novels include A Plague of Change, Cannon's Orb, Bright Islands, Stepwater, The Wells of Phyre, and Glaice.

L. Warren Douglas Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Regina Lynn Preciado

The Sacred Pool is not really a fantasy novel. It's a history book, set in a time of change, when Romans clash with Gauls, and Christians merge with pagans. Magic is math and time is mutable and as our heroine Pierrette observes, many complicated concepts become "self-evident, once you know about zero and infinity."

Our story begins with Elen's flight from a mob of villagers on a witch hunt. Twisted ankle notwithstanding, she runs and stumbles up the mountain path toward the sanctuary of the Anselm's keep, wondering whether "the Virgin Huntress abandoned her to that other Virgin, whose torchbearers even now drew close?"

Elen's fate takes her out of the village, leaving young Marie and her sister Pierrette alone with their father. Marie looks forward to husband and children. Pierrette takes after her mother, embracing her magical heritage and eventually accepting the power and the sacrifice that Elen, through marriage and motherhood, could not.

In some ways, this novel reminds me of Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood, as it explores the roles that belief and faith play in shaping our reality. The theme arises in human terms, as in fey Pierrette spending her childhood as the boy Piers, or her father trying desperately to believe himself cautious rather than cowardly. It appears in divine matters as well. Without believers, can a spirit -- or a god -- continue to exist?

Douglas writes well, and he resists the urge to wander off into flights of language, although I'm sure he could if he wanted to.

One drawback to the novel is the Historic And Other Notes section and the extensive bibliography. I know, from the number of pages these take up, that Douglas did a lot of research, but why spoil a perfectly good story with academia? I would prefer a note directing me to the website for historical information -- putting it in the book gives it a sense of being Assigned Reading, and makes the author too apparent. In fact, its presence made me feel like I'd just read a made-up story based on history and myth. It's like Douglas is telling us "look, this COULD have happened" rather than letting the novel stand alone as what DID happen.

Copyright © 2001 Regina Lynn Preciado

Regina Lynn Preciado lives in a converted barn in Los Angeles with her dog Jedi and a hummingbird-sized Sphinx Moth, Mothra.

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