Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ephemera duology (Sebastian and Belladonna) by Anne Bishop

As a passionate fan of the Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop, it is inevitable that I would want to check out her backlist. Whilst it is safe to say that neither the Ephemera duology or the House of Gaian trilogy achieved the same dizzying heights of the Black Jewels books, I did enjoy the story. I can't imagine how much pressure there is in trying to create a whole new story that wows all readers in the way that the Black Jewels trilogy has.

Long ago, to stop the onslaught of the Easter of the World, Ephemera was split into a dizzying number of strange and magical lands connected only by bridges that 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 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.

Okay, I am going to try and give a brief overview of the world that Bishop has created in this book. It definitely shares some elements with the other trilogies in that there are different lands that are connected and there is something that is endangering those connected lands. The lands are created by landscapers, and are connected by bridges. The people who live in these lands can cross to other parts of the lands by crossing over one of the bridges, and generally they will end up wherever their heart desired but there are times where they will end up somewhere else, which may bring them into contact with many dangerous creatures.

One of the lands is a place called The Den, which was created by the landscaper Glorianna. She is something of an outcast amongst the landscapers because she is much more powerful than many of the other landscapers in Ephemera. She created The Den so that her childhood friend and cousin Sebastian could have a place to live, for Sebastian is an incubus, and along with many other of society's unwanted characters, he lives in a place that is attractive to those who want to come and live out their fantasies in a discreet manner. Whilst Sebastian is happy in The Den, he longs to find the one woman that he is destined to love. He is also destined to find out the truth about his powers, most of which he has no idea that he has, let alone how to use them. Sebastian's friends amused me a lot - in particular his best friend who also is an incubus and who really wants to be able to find true love of his own.

At the Landscaper's School, the Eater of the World has long been loosed from his cage, and as It gradually creeps through the landscape It changes the landscapes, destroying the links to the other worlds, and destroying peoples lives by both killing them and just causing chaos and mistrust.

Into Sebastian's world comes Lynnea. She is an innocent who is looking for a home, having been kicked out of her adopted family's home. As Sebastian tries to control his incubus urges, and those of his fellow demons, he also has to teach her how to survive in her new world.

In some ways, the relationship between Sebastian and Lynnea is somewhat cliched, particularly in Lynnea's wide eyed innocence in the face of all the depravities within The Den, but what does make the story interesting is the relationships that Sebastian, and to a lesser extent Lynnea, have with his aunt and her children, Glorianna, also known as the Belladonna, and Lee who plays a key role in keeping the worlds of the Ephemera together in his role as a Bridge.

It turns out that while Glorianna has created The Den for Sebastian, he now must face his father and his cronies to not only discover the true strength that Sebastian has, but also ultimately to save his home, and his links to everyone he loves.

In Sebastian, national bestselling and award-winning author Anne Bishop introduced a stunning new realm, a world of strange and magical landscapes connected only by bridges – bridges that may transport you where you truly belong, rather than where you wished to go. But only the magic of the Landscapers can protect this world from the entity determined to enshroud it in darkness...

One by one, the landscapes of Ephemera are falling into shadow. The Eater of the World is spreading its influence, tainting people's souls with doubts and fears, and feasting on their dark emotions. With each victory, the Eater comes closer to extinguishing Ephemera's Light.

Only Glorianna Belladonna possesses the ability to thwart the Eater's plans. But she has been branded a rogue, her talents and vast power feared and misunderstood. Determined to protect the lands under her care, Glorianna will stand alone against the Eater if she must – regardless of the cost to her body and soul.

But she is not alone. In dreams, a call has traveled throughout Ephemera: "Heart's hope lies within Belladonna." That call has traveled far from the landscapes Glorianna claims and reached Michael, a man with mysterious powers of his own. It awakens a fierce hunger within him to find the dark-haired sorceress he's dreamt of, over and over again – a beautiful woman named Belladonna.

As Michael and Glorianna's hearts call out to each other across the Landscapes, together they may offer Ephemera the very hope it needs...

The story of Ephemera continues in the second book of the duology. Glorianna is still ostracised from within the small community of landscapers that survived the destruction that The Eater of the World inflicted at the Landscaper's School. Most people within the worlds are terrified of the power that the Belladonna wields, and there are those who would go out of their way to try and destroy her once and for all. They believe her to be evil, so as she tries to destroy the Eater of the World, she must also battle to protect herself from her other animals.

For Glorianna herself, she has long accepted that her struggle will be a lonely one, that there is no man alive who would have her, given the potency of her powers, but the cries of her heart are being heard, and are being heard by Michael the Musician. He is being drawn to the dark haired beauty of his dreams, and must search until he finds her. The path of true love never does go smoothly, and this story is no exception. Michael has to make a choice, between saving the world by destroying The Eater of the World, and his beloved. He also has to try to look after his beleaguered sister - a young girl who seems to have magical powers, but yet is more than just a landscaper.

The development of the relationship between Glorianna and Michael is much more layered and complex than that of Sebastian and Lynnea in the earlier book, but both books suffered a little by the complexity of the world that Bishop tries to create. There was also a much better balance between the two characters. Where Sebastian was the jaded, seen it and done it all twice, character and Lynnea was the overly innocent and wide eyed character, Michael and Glorianna are more equals, both having experienced the more difficult side of having the powers they have, and the impacts on those people around them.

If I was asked which of the three series would be best to introduce readers to the writing of Anne Bishop, there is no doubt in my mind that it would be the fabulous Black Jewels trilogy. However, this duology was an entertaining enough distraction while we wait for the next book that Anne Bishop publishes. Luckily for me, I have a copy of Tangled Webs still here to read, which is part of what has now become the Black Jewels series. I was happy to see on her website recently that the next book in the series has it's cover, which you can see here.

This was one of the books that I nominated to read as part of the Once Upon a Time II Challenge.


  1. sounds great, I am going to have to pick one up.
    great review!


  2. I have these on my TBR list so sounds like I am in for a treat, great review!

  3. you are just...amazing!

  4. I love what I have read by her so far (The Black Jewels, Dreams Made Flesh, The Invisible Ring and a couple of short stories). I have both of these at home and can't wait to get around to reading them. Thanks for the great reviews.