Review: Sebastian by Anne Bishop

April 10, 2010 Books, Reviews 2 ★★★★★

Review: Sebastian by Anne BishopSebastian by Anne Bishop
Long ago, to stop the onslaught of the Eater of the World, Ephemera was split into a dizzying number of strange and magical lands connected only by bridges—which may take you where you truly belong, rather than where you had intended to go.

Now, with the Eater contained and virtually forgotten, the shifting worlds of Ephemera have been kept stable by the magic of the Landscapers. In one such land, where night reigns and demons dwell, the half–incubus Sebastian revels in dark delights. But then in dreams she calls to him: a woman who wants only to be safe and loved—a woman he hungers for while knowing he may destroy her.

But a more devastating destiny awaits Sebastian, for in the quiet gardens of the Landscapers' school, evil is stirring. The prison of the Eater of the World has weakened—and Sebastian's realm may be the first to fall...

Intoxicating, erotic, and intensely romantic, Sebastian is for those who know on which side of the heart—Light or Dark—their passions lie.
Series: Ephemera #1
Published by Penguin on February 7th 2006
Genres: Fantasy, Speculative Fiction
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback
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Buy the Book at: Amazon

Strangeness Abounds lent me her copies of Sebastian and Belladonna after we had trawled a bookstore looking for good fantasy. I’d tried to read the first book in Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series several years ago and couldn’t get into it, so I was a little wary of the Ephemera books. SA agreed that Black Jewels wasn’t her cup of tea, either, but she said that she loved the Ephemera series, so I decided to give it a try.

I have to confess, I did some serious procrastination on school stuff so I could finish this book. It was beautifully written with well-developed, sympathetic characters and an engrossing plot. To put it simply, I enjoyed the hell out of it.

I’ll start with my favorite thing to talk about in fantasy books: worldbuilding. Ephemera is one of the most unusual settings I’ve ever read, and it’s actually pretty difficult to describe. Bishop thankfully doesn’t give you an infodump at the beginning that explains everything; instead, you learn about the world by experiencing it with the characters. It is fragmented; different landscapes are connected by bridges, magical sort of portals that either connect one place to another based on where they want to go, or as in the case of resonating bridges, take a traveler to a landscape that resonates with their heart. The idea of landscapes resonating with people, either everyday folk or the Landscapers, women who draw upon the Light currents to connect and shape Ephemera, is central to the storyline, for Ephemera is in danger of being destroyed by the Eater of the World, a dark entity that has broken free from its prison.

Sebastian, the title character, is the son of a wizard and a succubus who lives in the Den of Iniquity, a landscape where demons like Sebastian can live without fear of the humans who hate them. His cousin, Glorianna Belladonna, is a rogue Landscaper; she has more power than any Landscaper that has lived in a very long time, and when she demonstrated that power by creating the Den, she was cast out of the ranks and became an outlaw. Glorianna has the unique ability to actually create new landscapes out of Ephemera as opposed to simply changing existing ones, and her immense power frightens both the Landscapers and the Wizards, men who draw their magic from the Dark currents that run through Ephemera. When Sebastian discovers that the Eater of the World has been set loose, he must try to protect the Den and his new love, Lynnea, while Glorianna and her brother Lee try to find a way to protect Ephemera.

The plot is far too complex to try to summarize here (which is why my above summary is terrible, haha). Its complexity, though, is part of what makes it so engrossing. The book takes a little while to get started, but once it does, it was almost painful for me to have to put it down and do things that I actually had to do, like write papers and read for class. Bishop’s writing style is rich and complicated, and she uses it well here, weaving a story that is incredibly sensual and beautiful. This book does not really end on a cliffhanger, but it definitely leaves me wanting more. I had to run out and buy my own copy of Belladonna, just in case I don’t get a chance to finish it before I move away from Texas. I don’t want to steal SA’s books, heh. And honestly, if I didn’t have a couple of other books that I need to read for reviews, I would have dived straight into Belladonna the second I finished Sebastian. This is good stuff, very good stuff.