hardback 1996, DAW
World Without End is another elegantly written fantasy from Sean Russell, who I believe is one of the most underappreciated writers in the fantasy field. Russell has a way of immersing his readers deeply in cultures he creates from the intersection of impeccable historical research and his imagination, and this book, the first of a two-part series, is no exception.
Tristam Flattery, a young naturalist, is thrown into court intrigues and magical happenings when he is approached by Sir Roderick Palle, the King's Man, about helping tend an exotic plant in the King's arboretum. Kingfoil produces seeds that keep the King alive and render him nearly immortal, but for unknown reasons all the carefully tended plants have stopped reproducing.
While at court, Tristam also meets the Duchess of Morland, widely acknowledged as the most beautiful woman in the country. She's the favorite of the King, but she snares Tristam's heart even though he knows she's manipulating him for reasons of her own.
Tristam, the Duchess, and other courtiers eventually are sent on a mission to the tropical island where Kingfoil originates to bargain for more from the native people, who regard it as a sacred herb. Along the way, however, unexplained things start happening to Tristam, and it appears that he might be much more than just a simple naturalist, but a mage whose powers are beginning to awaken. But who is waking them, and to what purpose?
Replete with hidden jungle cities, mysterious runic languages, court factions, blood magic, beauty and sensuality, World Without End unfolds at a measured pace and keeps the reader guessing.
Review by Sara Lipowitz
Reviewed August 5, 1996
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