I mentioned previously that the first time I read anything by Tanith Lee, I was too young and she was above my reading level. Today, I very nearly missed comprehending the second of the books I found at the Gallery, Delusion’s Master.
It seems this too is part of a series, so sayeth isfdb.org, though I honestly couldn’t tell based on what I read. I would assume that the other books allow for more focus on the other demons referred to here, as it says early on that there are five Lords of Darkness and here only two are main characters.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The story begins with a retelling of the Tower of Babel, save that the demon lord Chuz, master of madness, is responsible in part. After the fall of the Tower, a holy city arises from the ashes and it is there that most of the story takes place, especially that of Azhrarn, Lord of Darkness. There is religion, there is madness, there is love, etc. There are men and they are human.
Despite the fact that there is indeed a story and the book being only 206 pages long, this did take me three days to read. As I mentioned, I had a fair bit of trouble getting started. I feel that Tanith Lee’s writing is some of the most challenging fiction I’ve read in years, especially considering that it’s not challenging in the ways I’ve become accustomed to. I don’t need to know the contents of every preceeding book in the series (though that might have helped), nor do I need to keep track of a massive cast of characters who often bear bizarre names.
Comparing Tanith Lee’s writing to that of other authors makes me think that even the books I read normally are dumbed-down, allowing readers to be lazier and exercise their minds less. Delusion’s Master made me work in ways I haven’t stretched my mind in years. The mere fact that I considered – more than once! – putting the book down because it was simply too challenging ought to attest to that. Also the fact that my writing here has taken on a distinctly older style, with a vocabulary to suit.
Let us not forget that, in the end, Delusion’s Master is every bit as powerful as Sabella, even if I enjoyed it less. I may have toyed with not keeping this book. I was determined not to retain it, given my seemingly futile struggle. And then…everything I was trying to keep track of came together in such a way that I had to admit that this book too is quite powerful. Not nearly as pleasant a read for me personally, but worth keeping. Something that even makes me look back on other books I’ve retained this year and wonder if I should reconsider their spots on my shelves. Not the big books or the ones I’ve adored, of course, but the books that I was lukewarm at best on, and kept more because it’s easier than making a pile to sell or give away somewhere.
Obviously I’ll have to look out for more of this series, but I won’t complain if it takes a while to turn up through my usual channels. It’s not something I’m in a hurry to read more of.
On the subject of working hard to read books, I do have the manuscript for Haunted by the Keres by Lauren Jankowski in my inbox. This one’s on a bit of a time crunch, so I honestly don’t know how much I’ll get through before the due date, though gods all know I’ll do my best. I’m also not certain if I’ll finish the book for myself even if I don’t get through it before the date. We’ll see what happens.