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A Jesuit scientist, dispatched on an expedition by Louis XIV, brings a female "sea monster" back to the court. The king thinks the creature will enhance his glory and may hold the secret of immortality. But the Jesuit's younger sister, Marie-Josephe, newly come to Versailles, soon discovers that the newcomer is anything but monstrous. The revelation brings both females into collision with the Jesuit, the pope, and Louis himself. McIntyre has done her historical homework, as is evident in a superbly realized setting, and she executes the plot with superior skill. But her characterization is uneven, with the sea lady rising head and shoulders above the human protagonists, who are a trifle wooden and occasionally tainted by didacticism. But this is the only weakness in a splendid historical fantasy that shows sf star McIntyre admirably opening new territory. --Roland Green
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A successful sf writer takes a stab at alternate history in this Gothic tale featuring a captured sea monster in 17th-century France. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Inspired by tales of ancient sea-monsters, McIntyre (The Crystal Star) spins a marvelous alternative-history fable about greed and goodness, power and pathos set at the 17th century court of Louis XIV, France's glittering Sun King. At breathtaking (and chilly) Versailles, Louis pays for his glory by sacrificing his comfort and privacy. He lusts after bodily immortality and unending treasure, and he hopes to find both by devouring the entrails of a sea-woman trapped by Jesuit explorer Yves de la Croix. Enthralled by the creature's songs and telepathic tales, Yves's musician sister Marie-Josèphe must defy brother, king and pope to save the sea-woman from the court butcher. Marie-Josèphe isn't alone in her proto-ecofeminist struggle. She finds an ally (and lover) in Lucien, Comte de Chrétien, a great-hearted dwarf whose inner pain and essential nobility recall Cyrano and Quasimodo. Drawing on deep research (detailed in an afterword), McIntyre vividly re-creates a Versailles poised on the cusp between alchemy and modern science. Her imaginings enliven her history with wonder, but, as in the best fantasy, they serve less to dazzle by their inventiveness than to illuminate brilliantly real-world truthsshere, humanity's responses, base and noble, when confronting the unknown. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved