Book reviews Book reviews
The Grand Ellipse (2000) is set in the fantasy world in which Paula Volsky had set others of her books like The White Tribunal and Illusion. As far as I know it is the last book so set, and it is also the best - revisiting many of the locations from the previous books.

A strong female lead, the adventuress Luzelle Devaire competes in race organised by a mad king for the chance to meet him. So she can plead for access to the one thing that might save her Vonahr homeland from being assimilated by a militaristic regime. The one thing being a magic called sentient fire.

Very Jack Vance like, through Luzelle's eyes we experience many strange cultures as much as one of Jack Vance's heroes would. Also Jack Vance like there is much comedy and farce, with outstandingly nutty characters like the mad king who felt "Grand Ellipse" was a better title for his race than "Big Oval".

There are themes here common to Volsky's others books. Old-fashioned honour, and old-fashioned magic, have almost been relegated to fairy-tale land. In the world of this book they still exist in small corners, in forgotten places. You can read more or less into that.

There are also analogies with the history of our sad world. So the Grewzian Imperium is very Germanic, and as ruthless as a Nazi war-machine. But such analogies are not to be taken too far. This is an enjoyable work of fiction, one I like re-reading.