Review: “Sebastian,” Anne Bishop

Pros: Fascinating world(s), interesting concepts
Cons: Frustrating relationship developments
Rating: 4 out of 5

Sebastian (Ephemera, Book 1), by Anne Bishop, introduces us to Sebastian–a half-human, half-incubus. He lives in a world of eternal night. It suits him well, but there have been some disturbing events around the edges. The world is made up of little worlds like his–the world as a whole has split into swaths of ‘Ephemera’. It takes powerful Landscapers and Bridges (women and men with power over the land and the roads between lands) to keep the landscapes balanced. Sebastian’s cousin, Gloriana Belladonna, is the most powerful Landscaper, and has been declared a rogue because she dared to create a landscape appropriate for demons rather than humans. She wanted somewhere Sebastian would feel comfortable. Now the landscapes are changing against their Landscapers’ wills. The Eater of Worlds has found a crack in his prison, and he’s working just as hard as he can to bring Darkness to all of the landscapes. He knows that only Belladonna has the power to stop him, so he’s going after her and her friends and family first.

 

One of the major relationships in Sebastian is that between half-incubus Sebastian and the charmingly sweet Lynnea. He believes that she has ended up in his landscape (the Den of Iniquity) by accident and is determined to send her someplace safer. But he just can’t stop thinking about her–partially as an incubus, but also as a man attracted to a woman who intrigues him. I didn’t love Lynnea quite as much as I think I was supposed to, but then I’m mildly allergic to pouting women. I think that got me off on the wrong foot with Lynnea. Certainly later I grew to care about her. Their relationship is, however, the source of most of my frustration with Sebastian. I’ve seen this dynamic before: dark/dangerous man doesn’t want to soil the pure, lovely woman he has feelings for, and feels he must stay away from her in order to protect her safety and her delicate sensibilities. I can see that working for a short while, but he dives back into that rationale too often and for too long.

Gloriana herself intrigued me and drew me in; she’s young and powerful, but everybody is counting on her to destroy the Eater of Worlds and that’s a hell of a responsibility. The ways in which landscapes work is fascinating. Some Bridges lead between specific worlds. Others are ‘resonant’ and will take the traveler to a land that aligns with the resonance of his heart (although will can overcome that, sometimes). Because of the nature of landscapes and the Ephemera, a particularly piercing wish of the heart can alter the world itself. All of Gloriana’s plans carry risks, and she’s afraid.

While this first book in the “Ephemera” series didn’t grab hold of me in the same way that all of Anne Bishop’s other series have, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a very good book. Her books in general are just so good that anything not quite up to that high standard pales in comparison. I certainly plan to read the rest of the series, and I look forward to seeing what happens with some of my favorite characters.

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