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Mortal Suns Hardcover – October 13, 2003


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Lee presents the marvelous world of Akhemony, where the sun is worshiped and the Heart Drum of the kingdom is never silent, lest the heart of the kingdom cease to beat. One of the queens of Akhemony struggles to give birth to the king's child, a beautiful but seriously crippled girl--she is born without feet. Her mother immediately consigns her to the Temple of Death. Yet, later, the girl is retrieved from doom, raised as a princess of the kingdom, and eventually chosen as consort to its king. From that station, she witnesses the downfalls of the kings and of traditional ways. Lee embellishes this reasonably simple plot with great richness of detail, and she makes Akhemony, though it calls to mind a number of places in our world's history, a unique place. As is her wont, Lee weaves style, subject, and characters into a seamless whole. Frieda Murray
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

Tanith Lee is one of the leading fantasy authors working today. She has written over 50 novels and short story collections, among them the bestselling Flat Earth Series. She has won the World Fantasy Award numerous times as well as the August Derleth Award.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Books; 1st Ed edition (October 13, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585672076
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585672073
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,572,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. Lim on March 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
At her best, Tanith Lee can summon up a hallucinatory dreamscape of things that never were, but should be. At her worst, she devolves into a morass of mystical hoo-hah. This book is somewhere in between.
Lee sketches out the landscape of Akhemony in swift, bold strokes: the claustrophobic intrigues of the women's quarters, the hot dust of a besieged town. The characters are stylized archetypes with enough added individuality to bring them to life. Unlike some of her other recent books, it was both easy and pleasurable to submerge into the pages of this one.
And yet at its core, the book falters because of the passivity of its supposed heroine. Cemira/Calistra does struggle to overcome the accident of her birth, but beyond and after that, she is nothing but a cherished ornament of the hero. Her only motivation is to be what he wants her to be, and the only thing he really wants her to be is beautiful. Compared to the steely resolve of her (step)mother(-in-law) Udrombis, she is a paltry thing indeed.
The book ends with a hint of pending sequels. If there are some, I would hope that Cemira finds some goal in them to inspire action within herself and respect within the reader.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Craig L. Gidney on November 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Mortal Suns" creates the myth-haunted kingdom of Akemony, a land loosely modeled on Ancient Greece. It follows the vainglorious rise and fall of a dynasty, viewed from the vantage point of one its minor nobles, the queen Calistra, a woman born without feet. The dynasty weathers devastating losses, through both natural and supernatural occurrences. It's a rather thin and episodic plot, one that heavily alludes to Classical mythology and tragedy. Readers familiar with Classical Greek literature and history will enjoy the veiled references. "Mortal Suns" strongly focuses on the women who also control the dynasty-the Widow Consort Udrombis is a wonderful, regal creation, equal parts Circe and Medea.
The subtext of the novel is equally as fascinating as the foreground: the enigmatic battle between the masculine (unnamed) Sun god and the feminine Moon goddess Phaidrix. This unseen battle is actualized in Calistra, who is both of the Sun and the Moon. She is the unwitting lynchpin and omen of the power struggles and supernatural incidences.
As is expected in a work by Lee, the language and atmosphere reigns supreme. She is particularly good at evoking scenes of ominous beauty, as evidenced by the excerpt below, describing a monstrous creature: "There, on the path, between ourselves and the soldiers, was a cricket made of green chalcedony, through which the afterglow shone, revealing its inner life, bladders and arteries pulsing with dim blood.... And with its forelegs it strummed at its own body, and from that it shrilled the web of glass, its ghastly song."
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By randym on July 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beautiful Calistra, also called Cemira, "Snake," was born without feet. Eventually, she rises to become queen of Akhemony...where she has a closeup view of its fall.

"Mortal Suns," set in a land that is a sort of fantasy Greece, is mediocre Tanith Lee. But mediocre Tanith Lee is better than most authors at their best. Typically Lee, this book is filled with images of striking beauty and horror. There is perhaps a bit more horror than usual; while this story has the expected elements of fairy-tale glamor, it's also a bit grittier than classic Lee.

I don't think the rest of this review contains real spoilers; because of the structure of the story, the end is revealed at the beginning of the book. We know where the story is going; the interest comes from how it gets there. However, if you're one of those who hates even the hint of anything spoilerish, bail out now.

The major problem with the book is its heroine, Calistra. Lee's heroines are often very passive, but Calistra is extremely so. Like a beautiful doll, she allows herself to be carried along by events, rather than initiating them. Understandable, perhaps, since she's only a child, but it makes her rather uninteresting, despite her loveliness. Lee's passive heroines are usually forced to learn to be active, and I'm sure that happens with this one, too...but not in this book. Because the story is told in flashback by an elderly Calistra, we know that eventually, she goes on to become renowned in her own right, as a poet and seer, but there's little evidence of her future greatness here. She does show an occasional knack for songwriting, and her struggles to master walking with prosthetic feet crafted of silver are painfully detailed. But like a fairy-tale princess, Calistra exists only to love her prince.
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