Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Clayton, Jo

(1939-1998) US writer and former teacher, best known for her Diadem series of Planetary Romances where a young girl draws power from the eponymous headband, a Science-Fantasy equivalent of a magic Ring. The series comprises Diadem from the Stars (1977), Lamarchos (1978), Irsud (1978), Maeve (1979), Star Hunters (1980), The Nowhere Hunt (1981), Ghosthunt (1983), The Snares of Ibex (1984) and Quester's Endgame (1986), and continues with the Shadith's Quest subseries – Shadowplay (1990), Shadowspeer (1990) and Shadowkill (1991) – and the Shadowsong trilogy – Fire in the Sky (1995), The Burning Ground (1995) and Crystal Heat (1996). The series is inventive and colourful, much in the tradition of Leigh Brackett and Marion Zimmer Bradley. In the same vein is the Skeen trilogy – Skeen's Leap (1986), Skeen's Return (1987) and Skeen's Search (1987) – about a female smuggler who seeks refuge through a dimensional Portal and is trapped in an Otherworld.

Though the later series are written with vigour and pace they are essentially formulaic. Of more interest are two other series. The first, Duel of SorceryMoongather (1982), Moonscatter (1983) and Changer's Moon (1985) – is set on an alien magical world where a girl raised and trained by a master Wizard must now pit her skills against him to free herself. JC later produced an addendum, the Dancer trilogy – Dancer's Rise (1993), Serpent Waltz (1994) and Dance Down the Stars (1994).

Drinker of SoulsDrinker of Souls (1986), Blue Magic (1988) and A Gathering of Stones (1989), all three assembled as The Soul Drinker (omni 1989) – contains some of JC's best work, reminiscent of Tanith Lee, with a convincingly delineated Oriental world where Gods and Ghosts are part of the fabric of the landscape and where a young girl, the soul-drinker of the title, goes on a Quest to rescue her family from an evil king. This series spawned Wild MagicWild Magic (1991), Wildfire (1992) and The Magic Wars (1993) – which builds inexorably to a battle between the Gods.

Other works include Shadow of the Warmaster (1988), an sf thriller, and A Bait of Dreams (fixup 1985), drawn from the Gleia series (which ran in Asimov's) about crystalline drugs which draw one into magical realms but destroy one's Soul. JC is a highly capable and vivid writer who can create convincing heroines and whose talents are at their best when she moves away from traditional plots into her own worlds. [MA]

Patricia Jo Clayton

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.