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by Michael Swanwick

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-688-13174-3
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

 Seething, brain-bursting, all but indescribable upper-world coming-of-age yarn, from the author of a string of splendid novels (Stations of the Tide; Griffin's Egg, etc.). A world where magic and technology both work exists at a much higher energy level than our own. Here dwell kobolds, imps, elves, demons, dwarves, and other fantastical beings--including Powers who poach souls from our world to use as slaves in the upper world. One such wretched waif, Jane Alderberry, is forced to toil in a vast, terrifying factory that manufactures stealth-attack dragons using both magical and technological components. One particularly evil dragon, pretending to be an inert wreck, desperately wants to escape the factory but cannot fly without a pilot. He arranges for Jane to discover him; but, before agreeing to help, Jane requires the dragon to reveal his true name and thus yield Jane a measure of power over him. Together, then, Jane and Melanchthon escape. Jane, beginning to grow up, attends a supernatural version of high school, then studies alchemy at college; her boyfriend, whom she can never quite bring herself to trust, is a serial incarnation, forever giving his life to save hers. Eventually, Jane comes to the attention of the Powers, and, following the Teind--a dreadful, goddess-inspired winnowing-out of the world's inhabitants--falls into despair, just as Melanchthon announces that he intends to assault the goddess's Spiral Castle, a puzzle-palace located in a set of yet higher dimensions. At once a gleefully bizarre parody and a dazzlingly imaginative tour de force, flawed by the rather distant, uninvolving narrative and an ending equivalent to ``then she fell out of bed and woke up.'' Withal: enormously impressive, rich, dense, demanding.