You may or may not know (probably you know) that I’m a bit obsessed with Tanith Lee. I’m certainly a pro at hoarding her work, even if I haven’t done the greatest job of reading it all. I have read enough to know A) I’m in love with her style, B) she is my queen and C) I can recommend her work highly.
So here’s why I think you should pick up something by Tanith, or pick up more of if her work if you’ve only read a little and you enjoyed it (hell, even if you didn’t enjoy it, give her another chance!):
Tanith is the Mistress of Atmosphere, as far as I’m concerned. I often attempt to describe this whenever I review her work and I’m usually at a loss for words. Her work just gives me such a vivid sense of the worlds she creates, sometimes with incredible simplicity. Even if I’m not a fan of the characters (I can admit this sometimes happens – alas, no writer is perfect, not even Tanith) or I’m a little lost on the plot, I’m always fully absorbed in whatever world she’s pulled me into.
This is somewhat linked to the atmosphere she creates in her books. With a few sentences, Tanith can paint a world or a character into life. Her sci-fi books have especially excellent language, including character dialect, and she often creates her own terminology. She might use new words to describe items or elements in the futuristic worlds she’s created or even slang to show how society has changed – this is especially present in Biting the Sun. She sometimes adds just a touch of humor – one of my favorite instances comes from Red Unicorn: “Say yes properly, or I’ll push you into the fire.” “Yes properly.”
-The Unexpected Elements
Many of the books I’ve read contain some sort of surprising touch, many of them small details. Calling upon the Unicorn Trilogy again, there’s a semi-steampunk feel given by the mechanical unicorns. In the Birthgrave trilogy, you think you’re reading high fantasy then (pow!) some major sci-fi elements are thrown in at the end of the first book. I love when she blends sci-fi and fantasy and she does it in several instances, Shon the Taken being another that comes to mind.
-There’s Something For Everyone
If you like trilogies, she’s got them – Birthgrave, The Blood Opera Sequence, The Wars of Vis. How about quartets? The Secret Books of Paradys and The Secret Books of Venus. She’s written novels – Biting the Sun, A Heroine of the World, Mortal Suns – and novellas – The Dragon Hoard and Dark Castle White, Horse, Louisa the Poisoner. She has an abundance of short story collections – Tempting the Gods, Redder than Blood, Cold Grey Stones – and her works are featured in many different themed anthologies – Wizards and Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells. She’s written plenty of sci-fi – Electric Forest, Silver Metal Lover, Sabella – and fantasy – Volkhavaar, East of Midnight – and a mix of both – The Birthgrave Trilogy, Shon the Taken, Days of Grass. She’s even got at least one example of some surreal magic with Greyglass (which I hated, but whatever). Looking for middle-grade? Look no further than the excellent Piratica and Claidi Journals series. YA? The Lionwolf Trilogy and Indigara. She even writes under a pen name, Esther Garber, though I haven’t managed to get ahold of her those works yet.
-I Won’t Shut Up Until You Do
Seriously. Just check her out. A lot of her work is out of print, true, but most used bookstores have her more popular works and I know thriftbooks.com often has something of hers in stock. Your local library should have one or two of her books (if not, request them!) and of course, DAW is re-releasing a lot of her older stuff. The more people I have to talk about Tanith with, the more likely I am to remember to actually read her work, not simply collect it.
Let me know if you’ve read any of her work and what you liked about it. Ugh, ok, if there’s something you didn’t like, we can talk about that too.