THE SACRED POOL
L. WARREN DOUGLAS. Baen, $24 (416p) ISBN 0-671-31956-6
As the first in Douglas's projected trilogy the Sorceress's Tale, this highly literate, intricately allusive alternative Dark Ages fantasy ingeniously explores the evolution of myths that sprang from various pagan roots to blossom into Christian tradition. Douglas's delightful heroine, Pierrette, lives in coastal Provence sometime between the eighth and the ninth centuries AD., when a succession of pillaging invaders--Saracens, Christians, Huns and Vikings--left their marks (and not a few offspring) on the native Provencals. Child of a cowardly olive-grove farmer and an ethereal woods-dweller stoned as a witch by scapegoat-seeking villagers, Pierrette eventually grows into a full-fledged sorceress capable of shaping reality to her requirements. Buoyed by the sacred spring, Ma, where her mother's spirit guides her growth, Pierrette learns to pierce the Veil of Years, traveling through time and space to an early Stone Age tribe and to the Atlantean Fortunate Isles. Pierrette's quest is to undermine the "terrible sameness" of skepticism that institutionalized Christianity induces. Douglas brilliantly highlights many of the pagan foundation-stones that supported the early Christian church through characters loosely based on historical and mythic figures as well as his own creations. His central philosophical preoccupation concerns the coexistence of good and evil, which he presents as two sides of the same concept, rather than two opposing forces. Immensely readable and elegantly simple in execution, this vivid reimagining of Western humanity's turbid adolescence engages, enchants and enthralls. (Jan.)
Publishers Weekly, November 27, 2000, p. 59
Note: I corrected two items in the printed review. "The Sorceress's Tale" was printed as "The Sorcerer's Tale," and Pierrette's name was spelled with one too few "r's".