by Lynn Abbey
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Lynn Abbey has resurrected the popular Thieves World in her recent novel Sanctuary, and now returns to the project's roots with Turning Points, the first of a projected second series of Thieves' World Anthologies. The last Thieves' World anthology, Stealer's Sky, was published in 1989, followed by an almost complete dearth of material with the exception of Robin Wayne Bailey's "The Stars are Tears," published in 1997 in Bending the Landscape: Fantasy (edited by Stephen Pagel and Nicola Griffith). With the revival of the franchise, Bailey, along with three other former Thieves' World authors, is joined by six authors new to the Ilsigi city.
As with the original anthologies, Abbey has written an introduction to the book which provides a reader with the sense of setting. Building on the characters and situations Abbey introduced in Sanctuary, this short piece, less a story than a vignette, introduces readers to the current power structure of Sanctuary without the details provided by either the novel or in the stories which follow.
Following Abbey's introduction, Mickey Zucker Reichert provides a look at one of the few survivors of the Dyareelan ascendancy. Dysan's stature almost doomed him until the Dyareelan priests discovered his gift for languages. Now, with the Dyareelans a thing of the past, Dysan faces a new problem when the delapidated house in which he dwells in bought by a Rankene sisterhood and he must defend his home from these foreign invaders. Reichert presents Dysan as the lowest of the low, but his interaction with others, limited here to the money changer Bezul, doesn't really provide an indication of how "real" his self-perception is. Reichert's depiction of Sanctuary is of the city at its seediest, far removed from the alleys of power or even the criminal hierarchy of the Maze. At the end of the story, Reichert gives the reader a glimpse of Dysan's future, but also the feeling that "Home Is Where the Hate Is" is only a story fragment, not a complete tale.
In "Role Model," Andrew J. Offutt creates Lone, a Hanse Shadowspawn want-to-be in a nod to his former popular character. However, as the story progresses, it is clear that Offutt is not simply trying to relive the glory days of the previous Thieves’ World series. Not only does he have a healer named Strick (foster son to the earlier Strick) looking into this new burglar, but he also throws out the idea of an incompetent apprentice mage with the unlikely name of Komodoflorensal, whose failures wreak havoc all across Sanctuary. “Role Model” succeeds in part because Offutt is not trying to recreate Shadowspawn. Lone, while emulating Shadowspawn, has his own personality, which is raw and waiting to find a guide, just as Cudget Swearoath guided Shadowspawn in the years before Thieves’ World.
Diana L. Paxson also returns with a link to her earlier stories. "The Prisoner in the Jewel" features Latilla, the youngest daughter of Paxson’s limner, Lalo. Since the end of "Quicksilver Dreams" (Stealer's Sky), in which Latilla was last seen, she has gotten married, had children, and become a widow. Now overseeing the inn her father purchased and taking care of her aged mother, Gilla, Latilla finds herself dealing with a Ranken nobleman on a quest to find Elisandra, the lost older sister of the current Ranken empress. Latilla is not (yet?) as interesting a character as Lalo was after he made his premiere appearance in "The Rhinoceros and the Unicorn" (Shadows of Sanctuary), but Paxson has given her enough hooks that she shows the potential to grow into a character who could rival Lalo for amiability.
Selina Rosen's Kadasah is another in a long list of magically-aided, cocky female warriors living in Sanctuary. Accompanying Kadasah is the love struck, or perhaps lust struck, Kaytin, whose annoying passes at Kadasah are surpassed only by his tendency to refer to himself in the third person. where previous Thieves' world characters filled their time killing innocents for sport, Kadasah works to kill the remnants of the Dyareelans, a bloody sect which If ruled" sanctuary in the period between the end of stealer's sky until the appearance of the Irrune shortly before the start of sanctuary. unlike many of sanctuary's denizens, Kadasah keeps a schedule and her trouble starts when she varies her schedule and finds herself and Kaytin attacked by an horde of Dyareelans. Although new to writing Thieves' world stories, Rosen's "Ritual Evolution" contains elements which makes it a natural for the world, if only Kaytin wasn't so annoying.
Even though Dennis L. McKiernan is a newcomer to Sanctuary, his story, "Duel" harkens back to the original Thieves' World anthology in which Robert Asprin described the Hawkmask leader Jubal as a former gladiator. In "Duel," McKiernan provides readers with a gladiatorial contest between Soldt, the swordmaster who was Molin Torchholder's protector in Sanctuary and the otherworldly Ariko, a woman summoned by the necromancer Hâlott. Soldt is already an established character and McKiernan divides his time between Soldt and Ariko in a way which the eventual winner could be either one (seeming in hindsight, of course, to be obvious). Although some of McKiernan's dialogue seems stilted, the story moves at a considerable pace as the tension heightens close to the final conflict between Ariko and Soldt.
Robin Wayne Bailey is another alum of the original Thieves' World and, as noted above, the author of the most recent short story until this anthology. Unlike Offutt with his Shadowspawn wannabe or Paxson with the daughter of Lalo, Bailey's "Ring of Sea and Fire" does not contain any direct references to his woman warrior Chenaya, although the protagonist Ranken exile Regan Vigeles appears to be descended from Chenaya's father, Lowan Vigeles. Bailey follows Vigeles, also called Lord Spyder, and his attempts to halt the start of a new invasion of Nisi witches in Sanctuary. Bailey introduces several interesting features to his story including the mysterious and beautiful Aaliyah, who has accompanied Vigeles to Sanctuary, but who doesn't speak. It is clear from the tale, which is told in two parts, that Bailey has many plans for Vigeles and Aaliyah's future in Sanctuary.
Jody Lynn Nye has elected to tell the story of a former priest of the Bloody Hand of Dyareela who is trying to find redemption among the people he has wronged. Although no longer a Dyareelan, Pel Garwood is still "Doing the Gods' Work" in Sanctuary, even if he now is a worshipper of Meshpri, one of the many outlawed Ilsigi goddesses. He spends his time healing those in need and trying to find ways to build up a sense of community until one day he is faced with another Dyareelan who can expose Pel for what he once was. Caught between the possibility of blackmail and his own conscience, Pel must come up with a non-lethal solution to his problem which results in what may be one of the most political stories ever published in a Thieves' World anthology.
Of course, Lynn Abbey is the editor of Turning Points and one of the co-founders of Thieves' Worlds. She is also the only contributor who has had work appear in all thirteen volumes of the series. In "The Red Lucky," Abbey does not focus on Cauvin, the foul-mouthed mason's apprentice from the novel Sanctuary, but rather on Bezulshash, a changer whose brother is a ne'er-do-well. When Bezul's brother, Perrez, cheats a Nighter from the swamps out of his family's "Red Lucky," Bezul tries to correct the situation, which gets him mixed up with sorcery, the remnants of the Beysib and Sanctuary's new, but still secret, power.
Jeff Grubb’s “Apocalypse Noun” introduces a new kind of magic to Sanctuary, although Heliz, the Crimson Scholar, is insistent that his words of power are not spells. In fact, Heliz has turned his back on the active use of words of power, preferring instead to live the life of a reclusive scholar in a garret, interrupted only when his landlord, Lumm, brings someone by who wants to have something written or read. Naturally, Lumm’s good intentions bring an end to Heliz’s solitude as his past catches up with him. Although the idea of words of power being distinct from spells is interesting, and Grubb defines them well, it is not clear where Heliz’s story might go in the future.
The final story in Thieves’ World: Turning Points is Raymond E. Feist’s “One To Go.” Feist tells the story of the thief Old Jake who is preparing to leave Sanctuary with his wife, Selda, after he makes his one last score. Of course, the idea of leaving Sanctuary has been expressed by characters numerous times and things always seem to go wrong. Jake, of course, has everything planned. He’s spoken to the widow of a less successful thief, timed his break-in during the final day of the great tournament (detailed in McKiernan’s “Duel”) and even has the luck of a solar eclipse. Naturally, things don’t go as planned. Old Jake and Selda do provide a look at Sanctuary’s older denizens who still haven’t lost their optimism.
While each of the stories in Turning Points is strong and well written, what is lacking in the collection are strong characters. Thieves' World introduced readers not only to Sanctuary, but to such characters who were instantly recognizable as Cappen Verra, One Thumb, Enas Yorl, and Jubal. None of the characters introduced in Turnings Points come close to the instant classic status of those and other early Thieves' World characters, which is not to say that they can't grow into more intriguing creations.
The stories in Turning Points are engaging and will remind readers of the original Thieves' World what made Sanctuary such a wonderful place to visit. Even if none of the characters seem to be classics, they all have the potential to grow into characters who will rival those in Thieves' World of yore. Readers who have not had the pleasure of reading the first twelve anthologies will have no problem finding themselves enmeshed in the linked stories which Abbey has selected to include in Turning Points. With luck, the new Thieves' World series will last as long as the original.
|Mickey Zucker Reichert||Home Is Where the Hate Is|
|Andrew J. Offutt||Role Model|
|Diana L. Paxson||The Prisoner in the Jewel|
|Selina Rosen||Ritual Evolution|
|Dennis L. McKiernan||Duel|
|Robin Wayne Bailey||Ring of Sea and Fire|
|Jody Lynn Nye||Doing the Gods' Work|
|Lynn Abbey||The Red Lucky|
|Jeff Grubb||Apocalypse Noun|
|Raymond E. Feist||One to Go|
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