A surprising, unusual and interesting story by an author who is well known for her two series of Victorian-era police stories. This, surprisingly, is not of that genre; rather it is an unusual fantasy. The library classifies it as SF (science fiction), which it certainly is not. True, the action takes place on some world other than Earth, but that does not make it a SF yarn. I think it is a sermon. It has elements of a Morality Play or a medieval Mystery Play, elements of theological criticism, and may even be one gigantic parable - there are certainly many elements of the latter! The protagonist is Ta-Thea, Queen of Shinabar, whose husband and child are killed at the beginning of the story, and who has fled Shinabar to stay alive. The story is of the wanderings of Tathea (a non-Shinabur form of her royal name), in her quest for truth, as she learns of the world and its evils, and gradually feels her way toward TRUTH. That comes when she encounters someone who is a guiding angel, and ultimately witnesses a celestial encounter between The Man of Holiness (God) and Asmodeus, the Prince of Devils [the latter appears in the apocryphal Book of Tobit (Tobias), and in the Talmud as well as in late Jewish mythology (Ashmedai in Hebrew)- and we begin to realize that the story will have some relationship to Jewish-Christian theology - a feeling that is borne out later]. Tathea sees, opens, and takes away from the scene the BOOK, which contains the TRUTH, and henceforth attempts to spread the word of the book - which has elements of the Bible. Through a series of adventures, far too extensive and complex to summarize here, Tathea spreads the word, and witnesses how the word can be misinterpreted, and the relationship between God and man distorted. The critical reader will recognize a variety of current religious practices and beliefs that appear here as actually contrary to the TRUTH. The last chapter is a fascinating extended debate between The Man of Holiness and Asmodeus about the relationship between Man and God. The reader will note some things which are, in fact, debated today in theology! If things occasionally seem a bit strange, she might also note the publisher - a branch of the publishing firm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! The story is a long, adventurous, theological sermon in parable form - except for the last chapter which attempts to summarize it for those who missed the points! Intriguing reading.
Perry, A.; Tathea; $23.95; 522pp; Shadow Mountain; Salt Lake City; 1999; ISBN 1- 57345-536-9
Tathea by Anne Perry - This tale is a religious allegory that reminds one of stories of good versus evil such as Tolkien and C.S. Lewis write. Tathea loses everything but her good name as she goes on a spiritual journey that will touch the readers' heart and soul.
"The world around her was the same, the sharp feel of the sandy ground under her feet, the aromatic smell of the herbs and the grasses, the wind off the sea. But inside her everything was different. She was filled with emotions whose origins hovered at the edge of her mind.
"The harder she grasped at them, the more intangible they became. There was only one certainty, absolute and unchangeable; the Book clasped in her arms was the source of all that was beautiful and precious, the beginning and end of everlasting joy. The power of the universe was in its pages. She must share it. Everyone must know."
Her husband and beloved son assassinated, Tathea, once Queen of Shinabar, is alone and in exile. Numbed by grief, she takes refuge in the Lost Lands, where she tries desperately to find meaning in a life that has robbed her of her family, her home and her country. But in her quest for the truth, which takes her far beyond the physical world she knows, she discovers that it does not come without cost - terrible cost.
Both an epic fantasy and an exploration of the eternal battle between good and evil, TATHEA is the extraordinary new novel from the best-selling creator of the William Monk, and the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt Victorian mystery series.
This information page, on an Anne Perry web site, contains extensive background information about Tathea. Many of Anne's own comments can be found here.
A number of reviews are mentioned. SFX, for example, said:
This is a particularly daring sort of novel, and that it's Perry's fantasy debut is nothing short of amazing... This is an innovative, well-written, intriguing novel, far removed from and far above the norm."