The White Tribunal

Paula Volsky

Bantam Books. $13.95 (trade paperback)
(paper $6.50)

I always look forward to a new novel from Paula Volsky. Her settings evoke times and places from our own world, but fantastically skewed and embellished with marvelous detail for hers; and while she seldom writes sequels, each book adds a new city or country, connected to her other stories only by sly and subtle references. It's one of the many entertaining things about her work.

Volsky takes us this time to the city of Lis Folaze, where the White Tribunal hunts down black magic as ruthlessly as the Spanish Inquisition or Salem witch hunts ever did -- but these trials and executions are justified because, occasionally, the magic is real.

Young Tradain liMarchborg has just seen his family falsely accused and murdered for supposed sorcerous dealing; being underage himself, he is condemned to life imprisonment in Fortress Nul. Now Tradain enters a Faustian bargain with an other-worldly Presence, trading life and soul for the magical powers to bring down the three people who ruined his family: the false witnesses whose lies convicted his father, and the over-zealous Gnaus liGurvohl, Premier Jurist of the White Tribunal.

Some further comment on The White Tribunal: the path to Tradain's redemption is so subtle as to be almost, but not quite, indecipherable; and I would like to have seen Volsky further pursue certain ironic but undeveloped twists (such as Autonn's accidental relation to Lis Folaze). That this novel has less humor than some of her others is purely a matter of taste. More distracting, though, is the way Volsky abandons Tradain's point of view after his return to the city. She then shifts, in turn but unevenly, to Tradain's victims, and adds as well an old friend. (Tradain could use a friend.)

Uneven pacing aside, readers with a taste for a historically-flavored fantasy will enjoy The White Tribunal.


Also by Paula Volsky:

The Curse of the Witch-Queen. Ballantine, 1982
The Luck of Relian Kru. Ace Books, 1987
The Sorcerer's Lady. Ace Books, 1986
The Sorcerer's Heir. Ace Books, 1988
The Sorcerer's Curse. Ace Books, 1989
Illusion. Bantam Books, 1992
The Wolf of Winter. Bantam Books, 1993
The Gates of Twilight. Bantam Books, 1996
The White Tribunal. Bantam Books, 1997


This review copyright 1996 by Wendy Morris
Information last updated January 19, 1999

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