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Night's Master: Tales from the Flat Earth: Book One
Tanith Lee
Norilana Books, 246 pages

Night's Master
Tanith Lee
Tanith Lee was born in 1947 in London, England. To date she has published almost eighty novels, thirteen short story collections, and well over 250 short stories. Four of her radio plays were broadcast by the BBC, and she wrote two episodes of the BBC TV cult SF series Blake's Seven. She has twice won the World Fantasy Award for short fiction, and was awarded the August Derleth Award in 1980 for her novel Death's Master. Tanith Lee lives with her husband, the writer and artist John Kaiine, on the southeast coast of England.

Tanith Lee Website
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SF Site Review: Black Unicorn
SF Site Review: The Silver Metal Lover

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A review by Mario Guslandi

Originally published in 1978 and nominated for the World Fantasy Award, Night's Master constitutes the first book in a series of five volumes which appeared in print over a ten-year period and subsequently labelled under the title, Tales from the Flat Earth. Structured as a series of interconnected short stories merging in atypical novels, Tanith Lee's complex work takes place on a world in which the Earth, where humans live, is flat and lies between two different layers: the Upperearth, the realm of indifferent gods, and the Underearth, a fantastic place where demons rule and the sun never shines. The first instalment, Night's Master, revolves around the lord of demons and prince of darkness Azharrn, but many characters populate the volume's pages. Plots are complex and intertwined in the fashion of One Thousand and One Nights.

In the first book, "Light Underground," Azharn brings down into Underearth a newborn child, who subsequently, as a young man, becomes his lover, but, after discovering the beauty of the sun, returns to the Earth's surface. The demon's vengeance lures the boy to pursue a ghost maiden on a ghost ship and to drown in the ocean. A magic collar made with the tears of a flower-born maiden comes into the hands of a handsome blind young man who finds his way to Underearth to conquer the maiden's love. Again the demon's revenge on the couple will leave them only one year of happiness. Deep, true love, however, will rescue the girl from death.

The second book, "Tricksters" features Zorayas, the disfigured thirteenth daughter of the tyrant king Zorashad, murdered, with the rest of his family by Azharn. Zorayas, grown to become a powerful witch whose face is always hidden behind an iron mask, manages to obtain extraordinary beauty from the demon lord. Becoming a mocking lady devoted to destroy and to despoil his unfortunate, helpless suitors, she'll be ultimately annihilated by the brother of young man from whom the sorceress has endevoured to get all the family's precious diamonds.

Book Three, "The World's Lure" is even more intricate featuring uncommon characters such as Shezael and Drezaem, two beings yet a single one, two sides of the same coin. When a chain of events brings humanity on the verge of total destruction while the uncaring gods remain unconcerned, Azharn sacrifices his own existence to save the human race, but later manages to be reborn from the bodies of seven virgins.

The novel is written in an extraordinary narrative style, gorgeous phrasing and wording. Here we have storytelling at its best and fantasy in its purest and strongest essence. Tanith Lee portrays with a masterful hand an amazing, ancient world inhabited by terrible demons, powerful sorcerers, passionate and fragile human beings, and creates a colourful, vivid, tableau apt to spellbind today's readers just as it did twenty years ago. Which proves the strength and the power of an artistic masterpiece.

Copyright © 2009 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.

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