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SAINT FIRE by Tanith Lee


Vol. II, The Secret Books of Venus

by Tanith Lee

Pub Date: Nov. 22nd, 1999
ISBN: 0-87951-735-2
Publisher: Overlook

Second entry in Lee’s latest fantasy tetralogy (following Faces Under Water, not seen) set in Venus, an alternate-world medieval Venice. Fourteen-year-old red-haired slave Volpa drudges for her brutal master until one night he attempts to rape her. Having learned from her mother how to bring fire, she burns the house down but loses her memory and afterward wanders the streets as a beggar. Cristiano, a Soldier of God, hearing a wild version of her feat, brings her to his superior, Magister Major Danielus. As Volpa regains her memory, Danielus coaxes her to demonstrate her talent. Knowing a war with the infidel trade rival Jurneians to be inevitable, Danielus arranges for Volpa to be educated, be taught to ride a horse, and learn to dress like a man. As Danielus had hoped, the Soldiers of God begin to worship her as the Maiden Beatifica. The Jurneians attack with their huge fleet, destroy Venus’s navy, and occupy the lagoon. Danielus induces Beatifica—by now convinced that Cristiano is an angel in human form—to incinerate the enemy by telling her that the Jurneians will torture Cristiano to death. And so she burns the Jurneian fleet but spares the men, then falls into a deathly trance. When she wakes, thinking Cristiano dead, she can no longer call fire and is condemned as a witch. Evocative, and set forth in Lee’s eerily crystalline prose; but, like her previous outing (The Gods are Thirsty, 1996), held back by being trite and overextended.