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On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality, Bk. 1) Mass Market Paperback – September 12, 1986


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On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality, Bk. 1) + Bearing an Hourglass (Incarnations of Immortality) + With a Tangled Skein (Incarnations of Immortality, Book 3)
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Product Details

  • Series: Incarnations of Immortality (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; English Language edition (September 12, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345338588
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345338587
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 4 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (302 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

When Zane shot Death, he learned, too late, that he would have to assume his place, speeding over the world riding his pale horse, and ending the lives of others. Sooner than he would have thought possible, Zane found himself being drawn to Satan's plot. Already the Prince of Evil was forging a trap in which Zane must act to destroy Luna, the woman he loved...unless he could discover the only way out....
The first novel of the INCARNATIONS OF IMMORATLITY series.

More About the Author

Piers Anthony is one of the world's most popular fantasy authors, and a New York Times bestseller twenty-one times over. His Xanth novels have been read and loved by millions of readers around the world, and he daily receives hundreds of letters from his devoted fans.In addition to the Xanth series, Anthony is the author of many other best-selling works. Piers Anthony lives in Inverness, Florida.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

108 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Kevin D. Flythe on December 13, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the first Piers Anthony book I ever read, and I read it for all the wrong reasons. I read it because the title intrigued me. I read it because it had a really cool cover. I was young and still judged many books on that basis. Fortunately, I hit the jackpot with this one.
I give this book five stars because it earned each and every one of them. I can be stingy with my stars at times, but I wonder if five is enough for this one. On A Pale Horse is book 1 of the Incarnations of Immortality, but don't be intimidated by the prospect of buying all the others because this one's a heavyweight all by its lonesome (it's the only one I've personally read so far). The main character is Zane, who is forced to take over the position of Death when he accidentally shoots and kills the previous Death (who had the misfortune of barging in a bit prematurely during Zane's suicide attempt). This sounds a little wacky, and it is, but wonderfully so.
From there, the book continues to tell the story of Zane as he learns the ropes of Reaping. The main plot involves Satan trying to lure Death into a scheme that involves him killing this girl he's come to love. The whole idea of Satan vs. Death is very cool, and is worth the price of the book alone. However, said plot, while awesome, was not my favorite part of the book because there's just so much dang cool stuf in here! For one thing, the book is hilarious, while several humorous moments in which Zane finds that Reaping isn't as easy as it looks. There's also a wonderful world Anthony has created that blends science and magic. And one thing that Anthony pulls off that few can is to, among a book filled with both laughs and adventure, weave in some deeply profound philosophical perspectives (on Death, of course).
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Noah Brooks on November 27, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read the first Xanth book (A Spell for Chameleon.) I picked up the second one (The Source of Magic) and got frustrated with it. The subject matter of the Xanth series only reaches so far as to cater to the 11-15 age range. Once you get beyond that, or at least for me, it becomes a little childish.
This book, however, was wonderfully mind stimulating. It probably would classify as a sci-fi book, which accounts for the futuristic Earth setting, but Anthony draws on his fantasy expertise to add flavor and gusto to this novel. It really is in a league of its own. I haven't even heard of a book or series that portrays the Incarnations (Death, Fate, Time, etc.) in such a special way, let alone have them as characters. The main reason I picked this book up in the first place was because of its unusual cover portraying Death in a yellow car (which we later learn is his Death Steed named Mortis.)
The story itself is riviting, drawing on many of the author's own feelings and thoughts to create an allegory (a work that can be read on two levels, in a literal way and then usually a deeper, more thought out way.) It has great action (sword fights, or actually scythe fights, damsels in destress, magicians, ect.) But what really got me was, the arch enemy of Death, the protagonist who is actually a human who assumed the post of Death after killing the previous Death, is Satan himself! What better foe could there be?
On a Pale Horse is a truly uncommon and unique book. It is fast paced and extremely interesting. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Oscar on June 11, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"On A Pale Horse" begins the "Incarnations of Immortality" series as an immature Zane seeks to improve his dismal life in a world filled with a curious blend of magic, religion, and science. Rudimentary character growth and environmental imagery laced among stereotypical behavior of mostly chauvinistic male and scatterbrained female figures cater to the young reader with the typical vocabulary in most fast-paced Piers Anthony storyline. Regrettably an ominous intensity and the dreadful powers of Death could have created a genuinely classic novel.

Zane must deal with the difficulties of a new job as he maintains a personal life. The novel introduces a gripping view of the Grim Reaper, since death can be a fearsome and at times welcome aspect in life. Death has the proverbial scythe and Deathsteed (which has a science influence as well), along with the duty of collecting souls to be possibly in part judged by him for final destination. A brief introduction to the other major Incarnations, featured in following tales of the series, include Time, Fate, War, Nature, Evil, and Good.

Although the novel handles the Incarnation of Death, the eternal battle between Heaven and Hell exposes little concerning Hell and naught about Heaven to the reader. While long-winded logical conclusions govern most of the fast dialogue between characters, the author conducts the space/time continuum paradox in a masterly fashion.

I recommend this series to any fan of the fantasy genre. However those of a highly inflexible religious background or intolerant attitude towards religion might want to avoid the selection.

Thank you.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By erica on April 26, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"On a Pale Horse" is the first novel in the Incarnations of Immortality series, which describes the adventures of ordinary people cast into the personified roles of death, time, fate, nature, war, evil, and good. The seven books of the series vary in quality, but the highly imaginitive fictional universe and the intricate twining of the story, with the complete plot of each book coalescing into a single overstory, make the series a stimulating read. This first book is the most self-contained, however, and can be enjoyed fully without committing to the following six.

Zane is a desperate young man. Lonely, poor, and distressed, he seeks refuge from his mistakes in death. But when he tries to kill himself he ends up murdering Death instead and is forced to assume his office, collecting the souls of other mortals who die with no strong orientation to good or evil. His office - killing people and sending them to Heaven or Hell - disturbs him at first, but he begins to realize that death is a necessary part of life and that he can ease his clients' passage. In the course of his duties, he meets and falls in love with a young woman, Luna, who he learns is instrumental to foiling a plot masterminded by Satan (the incarnation of evil). To save the woman he loves - and also the world as he knows it - he must harness the full power of his office.

"On a Pale Horse" is an absorbing novel, structured for easy reading and an engrossing plot. It offers a slick, smart alternative reality and an interesting (quasi-religious) perspective on ideas such as good, evil, and death. However, the book's opening chapters are far less readable and interesting than its bulk, and the shallow writing and callow protagonist are frustrating throughout. The final chapters are exciting but uninspiring; although the author is clearly capable of writing a powerful novel he has chosen to write a fun one instead; "On a Pale Horse" is not a great book, but it is a great read.
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