Night’s Master by Tanith Lee is the May selection for the Sword and Laser book group. It’s been a few months since I’ve read the selected book, and since this one was relatively inexpensive I decided to read it. It’s a beautiful lush book, full of interesting characters, but I just didn’t love it.
There isn’t much of a plot. The book is a collection of stories that revolve around the demon prince Azhrarn, but at the end some of the very loose plot threads are drawn together. The stories are told in sets of three, and within those sets of three there’s overlap as each story bleeds into the next one. Outside of that though, the only real connection are the demons who make mischief among the humans.
The prose is very lush, almost to the point of purple prose, but it never feels overwritten partly due to the mythological feel of the stories. In reading this book, I can definitely see the influence that Lee has had on fantasy and so for that I’m glad I read it. I’m not sure exactly how I haven’t read her books before, but now that I have I can see her influence on modern fantasy. That being said, it is a book of its time. Lee was very influenced by Arabian and Indian stories and mythologies, but her characters are all white skinned, blue eyed, and blond. Reading it with a more modern perspective, it does get distracting. It’s not enough to make me angry, but it’s there. The female characters are fairly passive in that they don’t actively do much in the stories, and there are quite a few rapes, or sexual encounters with questionable consent, that happens in the book. There’s one story that flat out states some gender essentialist nonsense about the male part of the soul being active and the female passive, so that annoyed me. However, the book is also extremely progressive as far as sexuality is concerned (for it’s time). There are many different forms of sexual relationships described in the various stories, gay and lesbian relations are given the same weight that the heterosexual ones are given.
I’m glad I read the book, I don’t think I’ll explore much further in this particular series. I might pick up another one of Lee’s books though.