The first book in the fantasy duology A Dirge for Prester John.

Publication year: 2010
Format: print
Page count: 270
Publisher: Night Shade Books

This book, too, has an unusual structure: it includes alternating chapters from three different books with occasional reflections from the transcriber. It has each book’s first chapters, then the second chapters etc.

Hiob von Luzern is a priest who together with other priests has searched for the legendary Prester John, a rich and pious Christian king who supposedly ruled a Nestorian Christian nation somewhere in the Orient. But when Hiob and his compatriots arrive to the Hindus River they find at first a small village. But it turns out to be far stranger place because it has a tree which instead of fruits grows books. Hiob is allowed to choose three of the books based on their covers alone and they happened to be the right ones for him. Or perhaps the wrong ones because the poor priest is plunged into heresy many times over. Unfortunately, the books also rot away quickly. As he transcribes them, parts of each book begin to molder and he’s unable to decipher them or their ends.

The first book tells of a naïve monk from Constantinople who arrives half-dead through a sea of sand to a land where he’s the only human and none have even heard of Christianity. He’s greeted by a talking lion, a woman with a snake’s body, a gryphon (talking one, of course), and a blemmyae: a woman who doesn’t have a head but instead her eyes are on her nipples and her mouth on her stomach. John is quite overwhelmed. He’s looking for the Tomb of St. Thomas the Doubter who is supposed to have come here. He tries to preach to these strange creatures but they aren’t receptive. Confused, he tries to fit this world into his own world view.

The second book tells the tale of the blemmyae woman, Hagia. She’s young by the standards of this country but this country has the Fountain of Youth and everyone is required to imbibe, so they’re all immortal. She was born to parents who plant and care for trees which grow books, that is covers and pages. The family writes down the books. She’ll have a complex relationship with John.

The third book has the stories which a nursemaid tells her three children in her care. The children’s mother rules this land of immortals.

Much like the “Orphan’s Tales” duology this is also a strange and wonderful book, inspired by ancient and medieval myths rather than Tolkien. It also looks at Christianity’s tales as just another collection of legends. It has various creatures which aren’t explained much. (That seems to frustrate some readers.) It’s wildly imaginative and wonderful.

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