Night's Master is the first book of the stunning arabesque high-fantasy series Tales from the Flat Earth, which, in the manner of The One Thousand and One Nights, portrays an ancient world in mythic grandeur via connected tales.
Long ago when the Earth was flat, beautiful, indifferent Gods lived in the airy Upperearth realm above; curious, passionate demons lived in the exotic Underearth realm below; and mortals were relegated to exist in the middle. Azhrarn, Lord of the Demons and the Darkness, was the one who ruled the night, and many mortal lives were changed because of his cruel whimsy. And yet, Azhrarn held inside his demon heart a profound mystery which would change the very fabric of the Flat Earth forever.
Come within this ancient world of brilliant darkness and beauty, of glittering palaces and wondrous elegant beings, of cruel passions and undying love. Discover the exotic wonder that is the Flat Earth.
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A gothic fairytale
Long ago, the earth was flat. Humans lived on its surface while the benevolent gods who created them lived in the heavens. Regretting that they had made man, the gods ignored their creation and held themselves aloof while the sorcerous demons that lived in the glowing gem-encrusted city under the earth were permitted to use humans as they wished. Being at the whim of cruel and impulsive demons made these times terrifying for humans. Eventually hate and evil began to prevail, and earth was near death, but the gods showed no inclination to save humanity. Azhrarn, Prince of Demons and Night’s Master, was the proudest and most powerful demon of all. When he discovered a beautiful orphaned human child and brought him to live in the underworld, the destiny of the earth was changed forever.
Tanith Lee’s Night’s Master, the first of her FLAT EARTH series, is a collection of connected stories set in Lee’s unique world. The first story recounts Azhrarn’s discovery and love for the human child he finds. Each of the following tales is related, perhaps by a character, an object, or a theme. Together, the stories weave a vast dark mythology covering thousands of years. With vivid imagery and elegant prose, they show demons meddling in human affairs, humbling men who exalt themselves, and using magic to harness the powers of music, love, and joy as well as grief, hate, and death.
Night’s Master is dark, yet richly luxuriant and full of passion. The writing is gorgeous. There’s not much more that a lover of excellent fantasy could ask for, though some readers may wish for a more obvious hero to love. You won’t find one here. Instead, you’ll feel the decline of civilization and the degeneration into hopelessness as a capricious demon wields magic against powerless men. But because the demons admire beauty, there’s also a gothic splendor that permeates the novel. In many ways the setting and characters of FLAT EARTH are reminiscent of Jack Vance’s DYING EARTH stories, which isn’t surprising considering that Vance was one of Tanith Lee’s major influences.
Night’s Master has just been produced in audio by Audible Frontiers. The narrator, Susan Duerden, did a great job with the dialogue — she has a lovely resonant voice which is a good fit for this dark fairytale. Unfortunately, her reading occasionally takes on a noticeable sing-song quality during the narrative. I hope this will not be as conspicuous in the second FLAT EARTH novel, Death’s Master.
- Kat Hooper
an excellent reading of a fantasy classic
- B. Wills