Books by Paula Volsky

Released: Oct. 10, 2000

"Brimming with action, repartee, intrigue, comedy, magic, and irony, with impressively well-rounded characters and a dash of feminism: a spine-tingling, heartwarming delight."
Volsky's new Victorian fantasy takes place in the same world as The White Tribunal (1997) but otherwise is unconnected. In Low Hetz, Mad King Miltzin's lowborn sorcerer, Nevenskoi, has discovered a green-flamed entity composed of sentient fire. To the sorcerer, Masterfire represents a possibly decisive weapon against the brutal, oppressive, and dangerously expansionist Grewzian Imperium. But Miltzin, oblivious to the peril, refuses to sell the secret or allow Nevenskoi to disseminate it; instead, he decrees the Grand Ellipse, a crazy race through all the civilized countries of the world, by any available means of transport, the winner to be showered with gifts and accolades. Disgusted, Nevenskoi allows word of his discovery to leak out. The government of Vonahr, anticipating a Grewzian attack forthwith, grasps that the winner—especially a female winner—of the Grand Ellipse will be ideally placed to bend the amorous Miltzin's ear, and so decides to sponsor a contestant: anthropologist Luzelle Devaire, independent, intelligent, and utterly determined to win. Among the other contestants will be Luzelle's ex, the irritating aristocrat Girays v'Alisante, and Overcommander Karsler Stornzof of the Grewzian army. Honest, forthright, and compassionate, Stornzof resembles not at all his wicked uncle Torvid, who will stop at nothing to sabotage Stornzof's rivals. All this, and the race hasn't even begun yet. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 11, 1997

In Volsky's new fantasy (The Gates of Twilight, 1996, etc.), the city of Lis Folaze in Upper Hetzia is slowly recovering from the Sortilegious Wars (though we never find out what these involved). But now the city trembles in fear of Gnaus liGurvohl's White Tribunal, an inquisition that supposedly exists to root out sorcery but actually seeks to condemn rich families and expropriate their wealth—as young Tradain liMarchborg soon understands when his father and brothers, though entirely innocent, are accused, tortured, and ``disinfected.'' Tradain himself is incarcerated in the ghastly Fortress Nul, where he languishes for 13 years before a prison riot enables him to escape. He hides in the ruined mansion of the sorcerer Yurune and decides to sell his soul to the puissant other-dimensional entity Xyleel in return for sorcerous powers enough to destroy his enemies. He also finds his childhood friend Glennian, her family likewise expunged by liGurvohl, clandestinely leading the political resistance to the Tribunal. Tradain eventually triumphs, though he finds the achievement curiously unsatisfying and prepares to surrender to Xyleel. Unexpectedly, Glennian intervenes with Xyleel to plead for Tradain's life. Skimpy backdrop, thin plot, and characters by the numbers, not to mention the dreadfully feeble conclusion: some graphic tortures but otherwise unpersuasive. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1996

Another otherworld fantasy from the author of The Wolf of Winter (1993), etc. The teeming, rather backward folk of subtropical Aveshq are dominated, politically and economically, by the brisk, progressive Vonahrish—the obvious model being the British occupation of India. In an attempt to suppress the native Aoun-Father cult and its horrid rites, young Vonahrish gentleman Renille will try to assassinate its high priest, KhriNayd-Son. But Renille discovers that Aoun-Father is real, a godlike being from a higher reality. Pursued by vengeful priests, Renille barely escapes with his life, then stumbles into OodPray—the crumbling palace of Aveshq's former rulers, now occupied by the noble Xundunisse and her daughter, Jathondi. Jathondi believes Renille's story, but Xundunisse is determined to expel the Vonahrish by any means, and arranges to marry Jathondi off. Goaded by KhriNayd-Son, meanwhile, Aveshq rises up against the Vonahrish. Jathondi escapes her mother's attentions only to be captured by priests and prepared for sacrifice. Later, Renille rescues Jathondi, while Xundunisse, coming to her senses at last, prepares to ask for major-league magical help. Volsky's all too thinly disguised cultural/religious clash is further undermined by the exotic labels hung upon familiar objects: in all, somewhat above average but decidedly disappointing nonetheless. Read full book review >
THE WOLF OF WINTER by Paula Volsky
Released: Nov. 15, 1993

Intriguing other-world fantasy from the author of Illusion (1991), set in the subarctic Russian-flavored land of Rhazaulle. The Ulor (or ruler) of Rhazaulle has a learned and intelligent but sickly younger brother, Varis, who, tiring of being insulted or passed over in favor of lesser men at court, retires to the remote family castle, the Tollbooth. Here, by dint of great study and various stimulating drugs, Varis develops a mastery of necromancy, able to conjure forth and command the miserable ghosts that infest Rhazaulle. Becoming accustomed to wielding power, and as a side- effect of the drugs, Varis decides to become Ulor himself, and, using his forbidden arts, coerces ghosts into disposing of both his elder brothers and the current Ulor's children. Next in line are Varis's nephew, Cerrov, and niece, Shalindra; their mother promptly dispatches the pair to the southerly kingdom of Aennorve, and Varis becomes Ulor. As the years pass, Shalindra, confined to a remote island library, develops into a scholar—and also dabbles in necromancy herself after learning that the Librarian is secretly a necromancer, one concerned with liberating captive ghosts rather than compelling them. But those who practice necromancy almost always succumb to the necromantic dementia known as ``spifflication.'' Thoughtful, distinctive, unconventional, and shapely. Read full book review >
ILLUSION by Paula Volsky
Released: Jan. 15, 1992

Give the Russian Revolution a French ambiance, add a dollop of American spirit and a dash of magic—and you have some idea of the setting for this bulky but entertaining historical fantasy. Young, purblind country Exalted (aristocrat) Eliste refuses to recognize her feelings for the handsome, educated, mannerly, admirable Dref—the latter, you see, is a serf, virtually a slave; and soon, when he defies Eliste's vicious father, Dref is forced to flee. So Eliste journeys to the city Sherreen to meet the King and Queen, where, preoccupied by the lustfully prolonged and unwelcome attentions of the King's brother, she fails to notice that the underclasses are threatening rebellion—until a mob bursts in to sack the palace. Whereupon the triumphant rabble-rouser Whiss Valeur institutes, with magical help, a reign of terror whose victims include not only the King and hapless Exalteds but anyone who dares oppose him. Only after a terrified Eliste endures dreadful privations and near-death will she throw off her aristocratic ways, meet up with Dref (a steadfast democrat, leading the resistance), and summon up some potent magical aid of her own to defeat the unspeakable Whiss. Surprisingly absorbing and agreeable, given the stereotyped characters and general air of predictability, with unobtrusive yet well thought-out magical notions and a backdrop of genuine depth and consistency. Read full book review >