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Mistress of the Catacombs
David Drake
Tor Books, 672 pages

Mistress of the Catacombs
David Drake
David Drake is the author of Igniting the Reaches and Through the Breach (1995), The Dragon Lord (1979) and To Bring the Light (1996) as well as the North-World series. Best known for his science fiction classic, Hammer's Slammers, Drake is a veteran of the only independent armored regiment assigned to Vietnam. He lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

David Drake Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: With The Lightnings
SF Site Review: With the Lightnings
SF Site Review: Queen of Demons
SF Site Review: Patriots
SF Site Review: Lord of the Isles
David Drake Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

Prince Garric of the Isles has growing concerns over the Moon Wisdom cult that has recently sprung up. His concerns increase when one of his spies, who after meeting with the cult is constantly tortured by evil dreams, disappears before his eyes. The Intercessor of Laut requests an audience, and Prince Garric chooses the neutral ground of a garden bridge. The Intercessor is actually a wizard, who tricks Garric into looking into the pond. He topples into the water, and his long time friend, Cashel, dives in after him. The ankle deep ornamental pond suddenly becomes an endless abyss, and the two struggle to the surface. Cashel finds someone in the water, and drags them to the surface, to find himself in the ocean. His burden is not his friend, but a young woman. Garric similarly reaches the surface, to discover that he is no longer in his own body, but that the wizard has traded his soul with that of a brain-damaged young man a thousand years into the future. Fortunately for the kingdom, he has been sharing his mind with one of his ancestors, and King Carus takes over Garric's real body, ready to protect the lands from the Confederacy of the West, who are being led by the Moon Wisdom people. The purpose of this conspiracy is for Garric and Cashel to fetch forth two rings, rings that will allow the return of the Mistress, a creature of evil and nightmare.

Mistress of the Catacombs is an intertwining of many characters and their related stories that branch off the main plot. Each one is carefully crafted, four basic stories that are filled with exciting adventure and action. We are introduced to well crafted different worlds and different aliens. It is nearly impossible to create such separate stories and not only make each one equally exciting, but to make each one equally important, and make each path meet satisfyingly in the end. David Drake carries this feat off admirably. His pacing and construction are done very well. Sometimes such separate stories can feel like filler... but one realizes right away that Drake has real stories to tell here, and they are necessary to the book. I also admire his characterization that I care equally for each person. When we leave Carus to visit Garric, we don't mind, because we're eager to find out what's next, what's been happening to the characters while we were reading elsewhere.

Garric is an intelligent and decent man, who would choose peace over war. He makes an excellent leader, knowledgeable in both fighting and diplomacy despite his age. It is interesting that he shares his mind with King Carus, who was king of the Isles a thousand years ago, and was widely considered to be the last great king. Carus would rather lop off heads than talk, and makes a good foil for Garric. King Carus lends his incredible charisma and experienced advice to Garric, which is part of what makes him such a capable leader. In many stories when a young man manages to get an army of fighting men to follow him, it stretches the reader's belief. Because of the relationship between the two, it becomes very sensible. This combination of two minds in one head is unusual, and works very well.

The other characters are also well drawn. The loyalty and strength of Cashel, Ilna who can weave anything and make people do it, or even feel it, and Princess Sharina, a ruler in her own right, who helps Carus, in Garric's body find more peaceful solutions.

This is the fourth book in The Lord of the Isles series. Mistress of the Catacombs can stand completely alone, and you can enjoy it with out having read the others, in fact, it may prompt you to search the others out, as Drake manages to hint in context what you need to know with out really spoiling the past stories. The other books in the series are Lord of the Isles, Queen of Demons and Servant of the Dragon.

Copyright © 2002 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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