Turn of the wheel

Shon the Taken — Tanith Lee

shon-the-taken

1979’s Shon the Taken is a standalone fantasy. It’s also a juvenile, which I think makes it the first Tanith Lee juvenile that I’ve read in A Year of Tanith Lee.

Shon and his people live simple lives constrained by simple rules. First among these is not too look intently in a certain direction, lest that which dwells in that certain direction look too intently back. Never stay in the dark woods at night. If bad luck or bad judgement leaves some poor fool in the woods overnight, death is certain. Either at the … grasp … of that which dwells and its servants, or at the hands of that fool’s cautious relatives, afraid that the fool has returned possessed.

Shon becomes one of those poor fools, thanks to a spiteful trick by his resentful brother (plus some very bad luck).


Possessed by a sorcerous ghost, sentenced to death by stoning, Shon only survives because his brother relents and frees Shon. Flight into the woods does not guarantee survival. Shon is outcast now and none of the neighboring villages welcome strangers. His only allies can be fellow outcasts.

Shon isn’t just unlucky. He is also curious. Who is the Crow King whose masked subjects hunt at night? The ghost within him has betrayed its presence with forbidden knowledge, even magic; can Shon use these for his own? Can he and his new friends win some measure of justice for the centuries of oppression his people have suffered?

 ~oOo~

Since this is a Tanith Lee novel, there’s a pretty good chance that the answer to the questions above is “no,” so I will reassure you that Shon does in fact manage to master arts his people have long-forgotten, as well as rediscover secrets long forgotten. This being Lee, there is a price involved.

This is a fairly dark juvenile, although perhaps out of consideration for her audience, the decadence and cruelty of the Crow King’s court is suggested rather than shown. Lee keeps her fondness for signaling depravity with perverse affection under control. Which isn’t to say that bad stuff does not happen. It’s just that it is in the form of sudden, violent death, not melancholic, joyless (although presumably imaginative) sex.

Shon’s people are the remnants of a once-great civilization, one brought down (like so many Lee civilizations) by their own bad behavior. Similarly, King Crow is doomed by his own cruelty. Cycles are a common motif in Lee, which makes me wonder if Shon is only this iteration’s avatar of rebellion against unjust rule, as fated as King Crow and the sorcerers before him to become a monster? What a cheerful thought!

There is a British edition of Shon the Taken, but I think North Americans wishing to own a copy will have to turn to their favoured purveyors of used books.

Title

Missing or dead moms

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


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

Total

26

20*

* Includes one uncle.


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