ILLUSION by Paula Volsky


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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.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1992
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: Bantam