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Bring Down the Sun
Judith Tarr
Tor, 220 pages

Bring Down the Sun
Judith Tarr
Judith Tarr was born in 1955 in Augusta, Maine. Her education includes time spent at Mount Holyoke College (AB), Newnham College, Cambridge (BA and MA) and Yale University (MA, M.Phil and PhD). Her first books, the 3-volume Hound and the Falcon series (The Isle of Glass, The Golden Horn, and The Hounds of God), brought a new freshness to fantasy. It follows the adventures of Alfred, a half-human, half-elf hybrid.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Queen of the Amazons
SF Site Review: Devil's Bargain
SF Site Review: Pride of Kings
SF Site Review: Kingdom of the Grail
SF Site Review: Household Gods
SF Site Review: The Shepherd Kings

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alma A. Hromic

I've always been in awe of Judith Tarr's ability to "bring down the sun," as it were, when it comes to fiction based on historical fact -- some of her earlier books, particularly the ones dealing with the Crusades, remain my absolutely favourite re-reads, and I return to them every time I want to part the veils of time and feel myself stepping into long-gone days, steeping myself in the scents and sounds and sights of vanished things, and feeling the strange, bittersweet touch of magic-that-never-was ruffle my hair like a wind out of the desert.

Tarr turns her hand to the Greece of antiquity in this particular novel, and her subject is Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, who was by all (historical) accounts a larger-than-life semi-mythological creature even back close to her own day. This is a huge canvas, and since it deals with themes so far away in time and space that it's wide open for a gifted storyteller to make their own.

And in some ways Tarr does exactly that. But I closed the book feeling oddly cheated -- this is either the first book in a series (although I can find no mention of this in the supporting press release material which came to me with the book, or on the book itself) or else it's a thin book with a fat book yearning to get out. There was so much here that I wanted to know MORE about -- what, precisely WERE the portents which accompanied our heroine's birth? How come nobody except her priestess-aunt seems to be concerned with this? How come, if the portents were vivid enough, nobody ELSE ever said anything to the girl while she was being kept in ignorance by her aunt? And, later on, how did this ignorance REALLY affect her ability to accept, learn, and practice magic?

She seems to be prone to blundering about and doing really scary things without having the first clue about how to control them -- or even that she is doing them; this might actually get noticed out there, sooner rather than later… and that brings up more questions. Precisely WHAT were the lessons that the witch from Thessaly taught both her (as a solitary pupil) and then, later, as one of a class with the rest of Philip of Macedon's wives? What was the real relationship with the snakes (there's a hatchling which seems terribly important -- and even goes missing for a little while, but is then recovered although we don't know why it was missing or how it was found) -- and this is something I've ALWAYS seen associated with Olympias when I've seen her previously portrayed, always surrounded by snakes, slithering stuff all around her, it's got to have a deeper level than the one explored in the book…? Was the child in her womb REALLY not affected by the war between good and evil where forces of potent magic coursed through his mother's body but which was fought more or less to preserve him, the child himself, from being bound by magic?

I'm left with lots and lots of questions.

I loved my read of the book, but all I can hope for is that there is a sequel in the offing somewhere in which I might learn more about this fascinating woman.

Copyright © 2009 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves." When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Her international success, The Secrets of Jin Shei, has been translated into ten languages worldwide, and its follow-up, Embers of Heaven, is coming out in 2006. She is also the author of the fantasy duology The Hidden Queen and Changer of Days.

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