Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Queen of Horror/Fantasy...

In my opinion, Tanith Lee wears that mantle. She has written a vast library of wonderful books. Many I have read and many I still have yet to get my hands on. Her use of the English language, her style, is so vivid and is rife with shadows and mood. There is a rawness and fear that is woven through the worlds and characters she creates, but there is also a darkly compelling beauty. Tanith has easily become my favorite writer. As a writer myself, I have deep admiration for her mind and her work.


I currently have a novel in my head that has been searching for a way out. I've had a wall in front of me for a little while now, but I'm seeing cracks in the mortar. Blogging is helping, and a light at the end of my stress tunnel is also having major effect. Stress has always been one of my mortal enemies, and the distracting thoughts it creates are a real creativity killer. As someone who thrives on their creativity, it has been a rough stretch of road. This too shall pass. These frustrating spells always do. Eventually.

Tanith's books have come to my's that I have read. They are serving as inspiration. I always find good books inspiring. The contents of the books themselves, and the attention paid by the writers. Tanith has over 50 books on her personal bibliography. She has won a number of awards. She was born in 1947, which makes her...64. For someone her age, she has really cranked out the books. Very impressive, if you ask me.

As I mentioned, I have read quite a few of her books. There are a number on my 'To Get' list. Some out of print but I'll find them. Well, as many as I can. As far as titles on my 'Books I Have Read' list, I thought I would share some of my favorites. If you have never heard of Tanith Lee and enjoy dark fiction, these might just be your cup of tea.

Tanith Lee

The Blood Opera Sequence
  • Dark Dance (1992)
  • Personal Darkness (1993)
  • Darkness, I (1994)
These served as my introduction to Tanith's work. I have always had a fascination for Vampires, and watch every vampire movie - read every vampire novel I can. In this trilogy, she introduces the reader to a vampiric family/race called the Scarabae.

In book one of the series (Dark Dance) we meet Rachaela Day, a young woman who leads a rather drab, grey life. She is barely scraping by on the pittance she makes working in a small book shop. One day a mysterious letter arrives from the Scarabae family, and things begin to change. All that Rachaela knows is that her father, Adamus Scarabae, left her mother before she was born. Her mother had warned her against them and Rachaela tries to steer clear, but the family becomes intrusively persistent. Losing her flat and her job, she agrees to the offer of coming to live with them in their house...a mysterious cliff top mansion miles away from anywhere.

I'll leave my plot description there, so as to leave as much of the story discovery as possible to any new readers who check the books out. This book was so vivid and it pulled me in and wouldn't let me go. It's high up on a short list of novels I started to read and couldn't put down until I had finished it. The two follow-ups ('Personal Darkness', and 'Darkness, I') are also quite excellent. I've also been hearing rumor (albeit for awhile now) that there is another novel in the works for the Scarabae clan...I'm completely down for that!

Tanith Lee

The Secret Books of Venus
  • Faces Under Water
  • Saint Fire
  • A Bed of Earth
  • Venus Preserved
These are just brilliant. Dark, romantic, and with a peppering of violence that fits into the storyline in a way that it isn't completely repugnant. It is necessary to the flow of the story. I'm usually quite disappointed with series because a wonderful opener can be deflated with a sub-par follow-up novel. This was to be the second series of Tanith's that I thoroughly enjoyed exploring.

The series takes place in 18th century Venice. Book one opens with the hedonistic atmosphere of Carnival. The festive turns deadly when Furian Furiano finds a mask of Apollo floating in the murky waters of the canals. The mask hides a sinister art. Furian becomes trapped in a bizarre web of love and evil, causing him to stumble on a macabre society of murderers. A beautiful and elusive woman, Eurydiche, holds the key to the murders. As she leads Furian into a labyrinth of ancient alchemy and black magic, he begins to realize that there are secrets in his own past linking him to her.

Tanith Lee

The Tanaquil Trilogy
  • Black Unicorn
  • Gold Unicorn
  • Red Unicorn
These lean a bit more toward the fantasy genre. Yes, all of Tanith's books are fantasy's of sorts, but these don't have some of the hard darkness and deeds of others...the first two series I mentioned, being examples.

In the first of these ('Black Unicorn'), we meet Tanaquil. The daughter of a Sorceress, she is thought to have no magical talents. One day she discovers a pile of bones in the desert near her mother's palace. Tanaquil assembles the bones to find that they are those of a that comes back to life.

If you want to start off a little lighter in your intro to Tanith, these would be a good way to go. Each book is slimmer on pages, but not on story. The story in these shorter novels is as rich as any I've read by her.

If anyone who reads this blog post has read some of Tanith Lee's work, or if anyone reads their first of her books, I'd love to hear what you think. I so seldom meet anyone who is familiar with her work.

Before I end this post, I feel the need to share a thought here. Tanith doesn't add an entry to her blog site very often. She has mentioned that she would rather spend the bulk of her time writing a book instead of writing a blog entry. I get where she's coming from. In a post from February, 2010, she mentions that she has had not one-but two bouts with cancer. Breast cancer in 2000, and a recurrence in 2008 in the muscle above the breast. In 2000, they removed the tumor, and gave her the requisite 'therapy's' (chemo and radiation). With additional meds she ended up cancer free. With the return of cancer in her muscles, well, they can't perform surgery to remove that. She was a bit concerned about losing the use of her arm (she writes in long hand). The tumor seemed rather inactive and wasn't spreading, so they gave her meds and it diminished to the point of nothingness. There may be damage from the medications that will rear it's head down the road, but she's fine for now. At least according to that particular blog report. She hasn't mentioned it since.

"So far though, I am clear, if losing lots of time back on the hospital-test-X ray carousel. I may, and could, flourish for years to come. But once more, I don't know how long I've got. As it says in the wonderful Blade Runner, 'Who does?"

I lost one of my dearest friends to her second bout with cancer several years ago. I've never met Tanith Lee. I would love to some day. I'm a fan. Someone who loves her work, and is truly inspired by it. Someone who would've felt like she had lost a friend...of sorts...if things had gone the other way. Reading that entry about her cancer made me feel relieved. She had dodged a bullet, not once but twice. Tanith is quite the prolific writer, and I know she has a lot more to share with us. I'm very happy that she'll be weaving more wonderful tales for us to read.

"I must add one proviso though. I'll still be trying to keep you posted on developments of a writing and publication nature. But if there is another long gap, as anyone who still has the patience to check out this site will normally know, silence does NOT mean that Lord Death, done up in his best black, has carted me away. It just means that, as usual, the World's Worse Website-Upkeeper, Tanith Lee, is busy writing, lost in her own wild worlds.

So then, as they jargonistically say, let us move on, in this case back on to the golden dancing floor of life and into the well-stocked bar of Good Hope. Cheers! Here's looking at you, kid." ~

Onwards, and upwards...


  1. I'm definitely going to look for her the next time I go to the library (next week) - thanks for the recommendation.

  2. I'll be curious to see what you're able to find at your library. If I were to guess, I'd say you might find the Blood Opera Sequence books. They seem to be the better known of her works.