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Faces Under Water (Secret Books of Venus, Book 1) Hardcover – September 1, 1998

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Product Details

  • Series: Secret Books of Venus (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Hardcover; 1st edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879518359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879518356
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,507,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It's no surprise that Tanith Lee has won the August Derleth Award and several World Fantasy Awards. She writes elegantly of love and lust, hatred and obsession, in decadent, morally ambiguous, fascinating novels and short stories that owe more to Angela Carter and Oscar Wilde than to any established tradition of fantasy.

Lee finds the perfect setting for her rich style and dark visions in Venus, an alternate-history, 18th-century Venice caught up in a fevered Carnival that requires everyone to either wear masks or be killed. When Furian Furiano, searching for bodies in the canals, finds instead a floating mask of Apollo, he becomes entangled in the complex plots and counterplots of warring religions and the secret societies of powerful guilds. And he encounters the beautiful Eurydiche, who has been cursed from birth with silence and an immobile face that make her both a powerful symbol of the historic role of women and an irresistible, inscrutable, and possibly fatal attraction for the hot-blooded young Furian.

This fantasy murder mystery, Faces Under Water, is Book I of the Secret Books of Venus, but its plot is self-contained and complete. This is no fat fantasy; rather, it is a properly proportioned novel of somewhat more than 200 pages, a length that displays Tanith Lee's considerable gift at its finest. --Cynthia Ward

From Publishers Weekly

Lee (the Paradys series, etc.) throws more jeweled prose at the city of Venice than almost any writer since George Sand. People sleep under "rose death sheets" and roam in palazzi where the ceilings are painted with pictures of "cloud blown Gods." Except this isn't quite Venice. The canals are still there and Carnival is still that famous time of desire and revenge, but in Lee's alternate 15th century, Titian's Venice is combined with haunting references to Venusberg, where Tannhauser was tempted. The young man being tempted here is Furian, who from disgust has forsaken his wealthy parents and now plies various trades for the alchemist Schaachen. While trolling for corpses in the canal during Carnival, he comes upon an odd mask of Apollo. The mask, it turns out, belonged to a young musician who has drowned. Furian brings the mask back to Schaachen and, suddenly, Furian is a marked man. His wandelier (gondolier) is cut up into 11 pieces, like Osiris, and Schaachen is attacked. Furian seeks a motive, which leads him to Eurydiche, a woman whose face is frozen into statue-like beauty. Everything starts to fall in place for him when he meets her father, Lepidus, a traveler in the Marco Polo mode. Lepidus is the head of the Guild of Mask Makers and as such has assumed an occult power for himself, employing the magical arts of the distant peoples among whom he has traveled. But what does he want with Furian? And is Eurydiche simply a lure, or does she love Furian? This is a fast start to what promises to be an exciting, innovative fantasy series.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
When Furian Furiano, a moody and temperamental young man with a painful past, comes across an exquisite mask of Apollo in his daily polings through the canals of Venus, the Venice of a shadowy alternate world, he has no idea what this chance find will bring him: a desperate love, initiation into an ancient and reclusive craft, and a closer encounter with death than he ever wished. In the hidden places of Venus, something is stirring and waking, something kept skillfully hidden until Furian's clumsy searches bring it to light...and not Furian, not his beautiful lover Eurydiche, perhaps not even Venus herself will be safe if its power is not stopped.
Like Lee's novels of Paradys, which seems to belong to the same world as Venus, "Faces Under Water" deals with a wide range of emotions and environments, from the darkness and the decadence to the unexpected joys and pains-all of which Furian's troubled life encompasses. Central to his thoughts and the story is the idea of the mask: what lies behind it? Can one even know what is really there? Furian's lover Eurydiche is perhaps a personification of this question; born with a rare disorder that keeps her mute and her face as still as stone, she cannot affirm her love to Furian in any way that he can concretely accept. In the same way that Furian can never be sure what Eurydiche is thinking behind her beautiful mask, he cannot fathom the plot that is forming around him until it reveals itself to him at last. The Mask Makers' Guild...a mysterious tribe known as the Orichalci that dwell in the southern Amarias (seventeeth-century Venus' name for the Americas)...questions of life and death...
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 17, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In Zola's The Masterpiece there's a scene in which an acclaimed, established artist bemoans his success to a bunch of aspirant young will-be failures,lamenting, "All you young chaps yearn so for success. What you can't imagine is what a trial it can be to the one who has achieved it! To know that one must perpetually come up to one's own high mark, if one doesn't wish the critics to sneer! To be always rivalrous of one's own excellent former productions! Ah, woe is me!" And on he goes in the same vein, sounding, it must be admitted, like quite the twit--sounding like quite the twit, that is, to his auditors, all of whom have their work still to do, or not to do, as the case may be. Zola's acadamician's complaint--that he's too good at what he does and that he can't transcend what he's already accomplished--may seem foolish to most people (heck it seems foolish to me)--but still I can't help calling it to mind whenever I read something new By Tanith Lee. She writes very well. She may write TOO well. I give this book four stars, although compared with the bulk of the self-consciously "epic" slowly-moving stodgy sludge out there--sludge which I'm only too happy to read, I confess, when there's nothing else on the shelf, when the alchemical cupboard is bare, and when I've just gotten frankly too sick of The Storm Lord to read it over AGAIN--the Lord knows it deserves five. But taken within context of the Tanith Lee track record it probably deserves about three. Four stars is a compromise, and compromises are ugly.
What's wrong with Faces Under Water? Nothing, in the absolute sense. Yet it seems to me that Lee's female lead, Euridyche, may be taken as an emblemmatic exemplification of Lee's body of work as a whole.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Two admirable plot summaries have already been provided, as well as a breathtaking literary analysis of this book; my review will be somewhat shorter but hopefully half as decent. I enjoyed "Faces Under Water." To date, there is nothing of Tanith Lee's work that I have not enjoyed; however, during and after my reading of "Faces Under Water," I decided that this book, while certainly much better than most of what's out there, and even good by Tanith Lee standards, should not go terribly high on the list of her masterpieces. Having said that, keep in mind that I liked this book, because I am going to complain.
Part of the problem for me was the distance maintained from the characters, something I have never had trouble with before. Characters in the Paradys Tetralogy are viewed from the outside, often inscrutable at first glance, but after a while you can get inside their heads and understand their thoughts. Furian Furiano, though he becomes more approachable as the novel progresses, starts out as remote and indecipherable as his lover Eurydiche, she whose very face is a mask (a rare genetic disorder known as "faschia pietra" or "stone face"). Even though he is in effect the narrator of the story, albeit from a third-person angle, I often felt as though I were watching him, with no clue as to his emotions, his feelings, nothing that would give me any rapport or sympathy with him. By the end of the book this problem has been amended; I only wish it had been remedied by the first chapter.
A second problem lay in the pacing of the novel.
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