Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Volsky, Paula

(?   -    ) US writer whose debut novel, The Curse of the Witch-Queen (1982), comprises a genial tangle of multiple overlapping Curses, including one which compels its victim to overeat. The Sorcerer's Lady trilogy begins as Urban Fantasy in a City recalling 17th-century Venice. The Sorcerer's Lady (1986) sees the heroine's arranged marriage to a Wizard, whom she comes to Love despite his arrogance and hubris, which lead to his death. In The Sorcerer's Heir (1988) she hides with their son amid Underground allies through whom the growing son obsessively plans revenge. The heroine hesitates rather ineffectually until others eventually act to save the city in The Sorcerer's Curse (1989). This sequence is occasionally reminiscent of Jack Vance, to whom more obvious homage is paid in the engagingly good-humoured The Luck of Relian Kru (1987). The hapless Kru is cursed with comic ill-luck stemming from his untrained wizard Talent: pursued by a suave assassin, he takes refuge with a Trickster wizard who coerces him into hazardous Quests. An interesting system of Magic emerges, involving complex finger exercises developing into literal prestidigitation by reaching through Otherworld dimensions. All ends well.

Illusion (1991 UK) marks the rough bicentennial of the French Revolution, whose events it painstakingly mirrors. Magic, which like the aristocracy who can wield it has suffered Thinning, consists of either Illusion or the animation of Technofantasy machines known as "Sentients". These form metaphors for aspects of the Terror: a flame-belching serpent that terrorizes the streets, an insectile spymaster whose flying workers replace informers, and a death machine resembling an automated Iron Maiden which bloodily represents the guillotine. These props are effective enough to make Illusion more than merely a disguised historical romance. The Wolf of Winter (1993) has an atmospherically bleak sense of Dark Ages chill, as a monarch's youngest brother, initially commanding sympathy as a bullied weakling, is aided by an unreliable Mentor to find strength through Necromancy and associated drugs. He proceeds, Macbeth-like, to murder his way to the throne. Here necromancy is the forcing of one's will on earthbound Spirits of the dead: every graveyard holds a potential army. The remote Library where the usurper's niece has been hidden proves to harbour "white necromancers" wishing to free all such spirits through Exorcism; magical war follows, and the villain's predestined end holds some pathos. PV has a knack for interesting variants of magic. [DRL]

Paula Volsky


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.