Anne Perry, Tathea (Ace Books, 2002)

This is the first fantasy novel by renowned mystery writer Ann Perry. Both of her mystery series, the long standing series featuring the husband and wife team Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, and the equally successful series with sleuth William Monk, have placed Perry's name at the forefront of Victorian mysteries. And with Tathea she has continued with the rich detail and intricate plot lines she is know for.

The story begins in a place called "Shinbar, the oldest civilization in the world." It is described as a rich and beautiful place with echoes of the ancient Middle East. Tathea is the wife of the Isarch, the emperor of the land. In the opening scene we find Tathea awoken abruptly in the middle of the night during a hostile revolt. She is secreted away from the palace and forced to flee to the desert, leaving her murdered husband and son behind. Numb with grief and shock, Tathea begins a journey to the land of her mother, "The Lost Lands." There she is sent upon a spiritual mission for healing and understanding the tragedy of her life. But soon it is evident that her quest is for much more than just her own personal healing. She is to become the one who will bring back "The Book," which contains the vision and teachings of God for people of all lands.

Through-out the novel we journey with Tathea and those she meets on an intense and often difficult path. The story is packed with spiritual and philosophical contemplations. Despite the heavy-handed quasi-Christian theme of the book, it should appeal to anyone interested in fantasy that contains well developed plot lines, as well as to those interested in stories with a spiritual journey aspect. The book moves smoothly and the characters become real as we step on the Path with Tathea.

[Rebecca Clayburn]