A macabre dark fantasy of enchantment, misfortune, corruption, and death
The unnerving third volume of the Secret Books of Paradys begins with a fable of two doomed weddings. In “The Weasel Bride,” a white weasel transforms into a fair maiden under the light of a full moon. A local trapper releases the animal from its curse by marrying it, but on their wedding day, the weasel inflicts the groom with a fatal wound. This tale flows into the story of a bride who is brutally strangled in the nuptial bed after giving her husband a small nibble on the hand. Decades later, his motive comes to light when the woman’s unearthed tomb reveals a ghastly truth.
In the second narrative, “The Nightmare’s Tale,” Jean de St. Jean is an orphan of the Revolution who grows up with a deep yearning for revenge. Determined to kill the man responsible for his parents’ death, he sets off for the colonial island of Black Haissa. But he arrives on distant shores only to find that his adversary is already dead and that the isle is a country of wild nightmares, supernatural possession, and petrifying beasts. And in “Beautiful Lady,” small, shabby Julie d’Is lives in a tiny apartment near Temple Church that no one ever visits. Some refer to Julie as Bella Donna, but she has other nicknames—for wherever she goes, the Grim Reaper follows close behind.
Five additional fantasies entrance the reader with the gothic and tortured plights of the citizens of Paradys—a mythic city where vampire owls, occult conjurors, and femmes fatales abound.
The ambience of fin de siecle France imbues these eight gothic tales in the third volume in Lee's Secret Books of Paradys tetralogy, tracing the tortured lives once led by those buried in the crypts and cemeteries of the mythical (or forgotten) city of Paradys. ``The Weasel Bride'' twists a folktale about a man who marries an enchanted weasel and dies of her bite into an account of a young husband who kills his beloved bride on their wedding night and takes her dreadful secret to the gallows. The artist in ``The Glass Dagger,'' who normally saves her emotion for her art, is consumed by jealous rage and turns to supernatural revenge when a jaded aristocrat tries an old stratagem to win her love. In ``The Moon Is a Mask'' a drudge who creates a world of beauty in her garret room steals to buy a mask that turns her into a vampire owl. The miasma of corruption and death, combined with vivid and at times elegiac writing will engross readers who fancy this dark shade of fantasy writing.