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Figures of Earth (Wildside Fantasy) Paperback – December 1, 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
Book 12 of 17 in the Saga of Poictesme Series

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

James Branch Cabell (1879-1956) is best known for his tales of the imaginary land of Poictesme, where chivalry and galantry live on. All of Cabell's works from before 1930 were assembled into the grand "Biography of the Life of Manuel," the supposed redeemer of the land of Poictesme, and they form a series which follows Manuel and his descendants through the centuries.

Cabell has been a favorite author of many famous writers, ranging from Lin Carter to Robert A. Heinlein.

About the Author

James Branch Cabell (1879-1958) wrote fantasy, and while he's not as well-known to readers these days, his work inspired various authors including Robert A. Heinlein, Neil Gaiman, James Blish, Fritz Leiber, and others. Interesting tidbit, in 1901, Cabell was a suspect in a murder investigation. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Wildside Fantasy
  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Borgo Press (December 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587152215
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587152214
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,956,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Throckmorton on June 27, 2000
Format: Unbound
Manuel, a swineherd for his brother-in-law the miller, was a resident in the area ruled by Count Demetrios d'Arnaye. His girlfriend was the lovely Suskind. On her deathbed, Dorothy, his mother, told him that she wanted him to make himself a figure in the world that was a splendid and admirable young man in all respects. After her death, he spent much time at the Pool of Haranton using its marsh clay to make a figure of earth of himself. After he had an adventure with Miramon Lluagor, the wizard, which netted him a lover named Niafer who was then taken by death to the pagan paradise, he decided to seek his fortune elsewhere. He did the following: provided wisdom for King Helmas, turned the wicked King Ferdinand into a saint and ended up engaged to Alianora the Unattainable Princess, the daughter of King Berenger of Arles. The princess taught him her magic and he saved the life of a stork that became indebted to him. He relinquished Alianora to the King of England and found a way to turn Queen Freydis of Audela into a woman permanently. That queen gave life to one of his figures that ran away fom them and became Sesphra, the god of the Philistines. After Queen Freydis taught him how to invoke Misery to free Niafer from the pagan paradise, he invoked Misery and served him for 30 of Misery's days which turned out to be 30 years for Manuel. Misery returned Niafer to him and they were married. For a time, they lived with Queen Freydis on her enchanted island where the stork delivered Melicent, their first child. With the aid of Queen Freydis and Miramon Lluagor, Manuel became the Count of Poictesme which had been granted to him by King Ferdinand, but had been occupied by the Northmen.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
This is where it starts (maybe); the epic History of Dom Manuel of Poictesme (pronounced pwa-tem), progenitor of a clan that stretches from pre-revolutionary France to the American South and includes Kings of England and Shakespeare. Cabell was witty, erudite and scandalous,,,by far the finest, widely unknown fantasist ever produced in America. Only for those who relish dense language and wisdom that is inevitable.
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Format: Kindle Edition
James Branch Cabell shares, with Lord Dunsany, the honor of being the most influential fantasist that everyone today has forgotten, occluded behind Mount Tolkien. He was considered a major literary writer in his day, a friend of H.L. Mencken and others, and he's been an influence on Heinlein and Gaiman and many other major writers. . Generally, his works are satiric fantasy with literary bite -- imagine a cynical, agnostic C.S. Lewis, writing pointed fantasies to skewer the pretensions of his Oxford chums, and you might have some preliminary idea of what to expect with Cabell.

This book is chronologically the first in his "series" -- his fantasy works are primarily set in a mythical medieval french realm called "Poictesme", and this book is a biography of the founder, Count Manuel, whose motto is "Mundus Vult Decipiti" ("The World Wishes to be Deceived"). It's a sharp book, aimed at sharp readers, and very amusing for what it is (if somewhat bitter). The only problem with it is that he wrote it after writing _Jurgen_, and Jurgen is simply funnier and more entertaining and better -- as good as this book is, Jurgen is the same thing, but better, pretty much across the board, a better satire of contemporary norms, a better puncturing of worldly ideals. So, read Jurgen first; if you really like it and want more, read this one next.
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Format: Paperback
Like many others, I discovered the elegant & piercingly satirical work of James Branch Cabell via the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series. "The Silver Stallion" had partially prepared me for the mordant delights of his writing, even though as a boy of 15 I was still enthralled by more traditional heroism, due to the countercultural imprimatur of Tolkien. But while I continued to enjoy such rich, straightforward works of mythic fantasy, Cabell opened up a whole new world for me, one that introduced me to the pleasures of wit, sophistication & literary grace.

For those who are new to him, much of Cabell's work comprises a vast, sprawling, interlocking & self-referential opus called The Biography of Manuel, the tale of a Medieval hero, his family, his comrades, and his many descendants. As noted by the previous reviewer, these works don't need to be read in any particular order, as they're all pieces of a vast mosaic, one that shifts its focus with the dazzling wonder of a kaleidoscope. This particular volume gives us the life story of Manuel himself, his many curious & occasionally decadent adventures, his encounters with magicians & deities, and his eventual ascendance as the great hero of mythical Poictesme.

I don't want to say much more about the plot, because Cabell's work is as much about the telling of the tale as the tale itself: flowing, witty & perversely droll prose with flashes of extraordinary beauty, which is often immediately punctured by a perfect bon mot. Cabell loves his creation as a bemused god loves his universe, attention darting like a jeweled dragonfly, playing with it as indeed more than one deity does in the pages of the Biography.
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