Review of SEBASTIAN by ANNE BISHOP
(first in the EPHEMERA series)
I adore everything by Anne Bishop. She’s one of my all-time favorite authors, no contest, and SEBASTIAN is no exception.
I believe everything Bishop writes follows her own formula, a word that has a negative connotation, but I think she’s found a brilliant formula that she executes to admirable results. My pros and cons for each book tend to remain the same, though, because they are my pros and cons for her formula. That said, it’s mostly pros: a complex and interesting magic system, a large cast of unique and lovable characters, a steamy romance, and an underlying theme of fate as the hand of justice with karma punishing the bad and rewarding the good.
In SEBASTIAN, Bishop crafts an utterly singular and compelling fantasy world. People shape the world: with their hearts, that is to say their emotions and thoughts. Positivity and kindness will create a beautiful world while negativity and cruelty design something far darker. Special people are gifted with the ability to mold the world with more deliberate skill, nudging it in the right direction. I will mention here that Bishop has a passion for gardening that comes through in all her work. In this case, the worlds are maintained, metaphorically of course, very much like a garden: tended and weeded so they can grow and blossom. These worlds, called landscapes, are actually separate and linked by magical bridges. Some bridges take you to a specific landscape while others could take you to many, but regardless you cannot enter a landscape unless it resonates with you on some level.
This book follows (surprise!) Sebastian, an incubus who lives in a landscape designed by his cousin specifically for demons like himself. Though painted by outsiders as a disgusting den of sin, there’s actually a lot of playful undertones to Sebastian’s landscape, not to mention a strong sense of camaraderie and loyalty.
When a meek, inexperienced, mistreated country mouse stumbles into his landscape, Sebastian knows she doesn’t belong. Admitting as much pains him, for after a lifetime of anonymous incubus sexual encounters, he finds himself inexplicably drawn to this shy woman and craving an intimacy beyond his own experience.
Meanwhile, an old threat escapes, promptly wreaking havoc within the landscapes. This monstrosity is difficult to summarize, but can basically lure those trying to cross into another landscape into its own instead, where the unlucky victims meet appalling deaths. The...thing is truly horrifying, as are the other antagonists, not to mention the added layers and twists to their backstory and motivations.
SEBASTIAN is yet another stellar example of why I adore Anne Bishop’s work.