In a futuristic fantasy from paperback author Williams, set millennia after some disaster has destroyed a technological civilization, a huge poetic jumble (drawn principally from William Blake's prophetic books), known as the Text, is accepted as holy writ and considered to possess magical properties. But eerie, wandering Absences—swirling, terrifying blobs of magical other- reality—are slowly eroding the landscape and now threaten to annihilate Arcady, the sprawling estate occupied for centuries by the Hawken family. In the Border forests nearby, a civil war rages between Citizen Arouet's guardsmen and Hawken cousin Artemis's rebel partisans. Aunt Morgana summons the various, far-flung Hawken relatives to defend Arcady, and they respond. Then, however, Morgana rushes off, brother Solomon decamps, brother Endymion flees with his companion phoenix, Khole, while one-legged Diego's incompetent guardsmen clash with Artemis's well-drilled partisans. Inside an Absence, Khole is transformed into an angel and instructs Solomon on how, using real magic, he must tame the Absences—which are sentient and evil and have been set adrift by Arouet's mining operations. A sort of ecological parable? Maybe—the ideas here have a certain alluring, incoherent sumptuousness. A shame, though, about the long-winded narrative, unevocative prose, and whimsical plotting.
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