Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain

Cruel Pink — Tanith Lee
Colouring Book, book 6

cruel-pink

2013’s Cruel Pink was not Tanith Lee’s last novel (I believe last week’s Zircons May Be Mistaken was her final book) but it is the last Tanith Lee novel I will review in the series A Year of Tanith Lee. I hope the series has been an enjoyable diversion in what has been otherwise a festering bubo of a year.

Five people. One house in old London.


Emenie lives an enjoyably solitary life, engaging with society only when she feels the need to kill. Which, as she would cheerfully admit, can be rather often. But perhaps she has killed once too often: even in the world after the collapse, people have friends and family. One victim’s family is certain Emenie knows more about that death than she will admit.

Klova enjoys a life of self-indulgence and free love in a Utopian welfare state of tomorrow. Klova’s compulsive kleptomania complicates her life, but not as much as will her ill-fated love affair with headstrong, irresistible Coal.

Rod’s unconventional childhood—raised as a girl by parents determined to have a daughter regardless of their child’s biological equipment—did not prevent him from maturing into a conventional and dull middle-aged office worker. But while he may be completely conventional, his elderly friends are not. And now, one by one, they are vanishing.

Irvin loves men as much as he does women; a predilection which can be quite dangerous in the 18th century. His latest but one seduction was but a ploy to give him access to the person he truly desired. A bold gambit but one with a cost he could not predict.

Linking them all? Their seemingly unremarkable, reclusive landlady.

 ~oOo~

This is apparently the sixth volume in a seven book sequence called the Colouring Book series, which includes L’Amber, Greyglass, To Indigo, Killing Violets (Gods’ Dogs), Ivoria, Cruel Pink, and Turquoiselle. The series is not mentioned as a series on isfdb.org but is detailed in Jim Pattison, Paul A. Soanes and Allison Rich’s exemplary Annotated Tanith Lee bibliography, Daughter of the Night. Moral for James: do not rely overmuch on any one site, no matter how convenient it is to do so.

This is not a long novel, so there is not enough space to elaborate all the settings. However, the few details we are given suffice to allow suspension of disbelief.

The book is also noteworthy as combining four usually disparate genres: mundane, post-apocalyptic, Utopian, and historical. Well, five, including the genre form that encompasses the other four.

Any reader familiar with Lee’s fantasy historicals may be expecting Lee to reveal some grand unifying thread that will put emeni’s post-Collapse world, Klova’s sad little utopia, Rod’s contemporary mundanity, and Irvin’s madcap actor’s world into one coherent whole. They will not be disappointed: there is a perfectly sensible explanation how it is that five people can share the same house, be vaguely aware of the others, and yet come from very different periods. I don’t know that every reader will like the explanation, but it does account for the details we see.

The narratives are sufficiently angst-filled that I expected yet another downer Lee novel. I was surprised to find that, despite enduring public derision and personal madness, all the characters manage to fumble their way towards a happy ending. And on that unexpected note, we end this series.

Cruel Pink can be acquired here.


Title

Missing or dead mothers

Missing or dead fathers

The Birthgrave

1

1

The Storm Lord

1

1

Volkhavaar

2

2

Drinking Sapphire Wine

0

0

Night’s Master

2

1

Shadowfire

2

1

Death’s Master

3

3

Sabella

1

1

Day By Night

1

2

Silver Metal Lover

0

0

Delusion’s Master

1

1

Cyrion

0

0

Anakire

2

1

Sung in Shadow

1

0

The White Serpent

1

1

The Book of the Beast

0

1

Electric Forest

1

0

The Book of the Mad

1

2*

Lycanthia

0

0

A Heroine of the World

1

1

The Winter Players

0

2

Delirium’s Mistress

1

0

The Blood of Roses

2

1

Castle of Dark

1

0

Prince on a White Horse

0

0

Heart-Beast

0

0

Quest for the White Witch

1

0

Shon the Taken

0

0

Black Unicorn

1

1

Gold Unicorn

0

1

Dark Dance

1

1

Personal Darkness

1

1

Darkness, I

0

0

Wolf Tower

1

1

Faces Under Water

0

0

Red Unicorn

0

1

Saint Fire

1

0

A Bed of Earth

1

1

Louisa the Poisoner

2

1

Venus Preserved

1

2

Metallic Love

1

1

White as Snow

1

1

Mortal Suns

1

1

Piratica

1

1

Piratica II

0

0

Piratica III

1

0

Ghosteria II

3

3

Cruel Pink

2

1

48 novels

45* absent mothers

38** absent fathers

* Includes one aunt.

** Includes one uncle.





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