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Pamela Dean

Pamela Dean fantasy author(1953- )
Tam Lin and The Dubious Hills have been nominated for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. Learn more at Pamela Dean’s website.

The Secret Country: A role-player’s dream

The Secret Country by Pamela Dean

The Secret Country is a fun fantasy about five teenagers and pre-teens who accidentally stumble into the fantasy world that they themselves created in play. Unfortunately, they are their normal selves, not their powerful alter egos, and so they are in a magical medieval kingdom without magical abilities, weapons skills, or even decent horsemanship. And the catch is that everyone expects them to know these things, since their characters do! This book is a role-player's dream, and perhaps nightmare as well.

They get by, becoming involved in court intrigue while trying to stay out of trouble by quick thinking and by calling on their knowledge of the way the world works. But then the world starts to change, with characters and objects behaving in ways they never thought of in their game.

Pamela Dean, as always, is brilliant at characterization.... Read More

Tam Lin: One of my favorite books

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

Tam Lin is Pamela Dean’s retelling of the classic folk tale, done as part of The Fairy Tale series created by Terri Windling. The folk tale is about a battle between the Faery Queen and a mortal girl for the heart and soul of Tam Lin, a young man enthralled by the Faery Queen. Pamela Dean has taken the innovative step of setting the story at a university in the Midwest during the seventies, which is pretty smart, because if the Faery Queen needs to hide out, where is she more likely to blend in than with a bunch of eccentric theater majors? Janet, the daughter of one of Blackstock’s professors, enrolls at the university as a freshman and moves into the dormitories. Like those at any good old university, the dorms are haunted, and like any good freshman Janet has no idea what she wants to... Read More

Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary: Not as good as Tam Lin

Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary by Pamela Dean

I've read several Pamela Dean books in the past, and so I was prepared for her style; it didn't bother me much that characters quoted too often, or that the book was long on characterization and mood but short on plot, or that the ending swooped in out of the ether when I was least expecting it. I was ready for those things to be the case, so they didn't disappoint me. I opened the book hoping for a story like Dean's earlier Tam Lin, full of interesting characters, with a subtle but looming sense of the supernatural.

I didn't like Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary as much as Tam Lin, though. For starters, I didn't feel like we got to know Gentian and her friends and family as well as we got to know Janet's circle; I wanted to know more about these people, but I always felt a little like a spectator. Then, I couldn't understand why Gentian liked Dominic. Hormones or no, be... Read More

Magazine Monday: Apex Magazine, Issue 59

The April issue of Apex Magazine opens with Sigrid Ellis’s editorial, in which she explains that the issue is about repair: “It’s an often-broken world we inhabit. Things falter, plans and bodies and hopes go awry. But we, and the world, keep going. Rebuilt, repaired and reformed. The future will not look like the past. It’s out there, waiting for us, anyway.” They are hopeful words, appropriate to the Easter season, and the fiction Ellis gives us this month is equally hopeful.

“Perfect” by Haddayr Copley-Woods doesn’t start out hopefully, though: “Quinn hated everything.” An unhappy soul who includes herself in the everything she hates, Quinn nonetheless attracts would-be friends and lovers in droves, who “mistook her air of biting dislike alternating with weary resignation as intensity, romanticism, and a deep need for help and human compassion.” The one area in which she thrives is sci... Read More

The Dubious Hills

book review Pamela Dean The Dubious Hills

The Dubious Hills — (1994) Publisher: Centuries after a group of warring wizards eliminate war from the Dubious Hills, the Hills are a place where knowledge and ability are parcelled out in strange ways. Only the group known as the Akoumi understand death, only the Gnosi know how to teach, and only the Physici can know pain. Dean weaves a strange and compelling examination of knowledge, responsiblity and death.