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The Novels of Tanith Lee: The Wars of Vis

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Storm Lord-small Anackire-small The White Serpent-small

I had planned to look at a Ray Bradbury anthology as my Vintage Treasures post for tonight, but I set that aside when I learned about the unexpected death of Tanith Lee today. As I was preparing a brief obituary, I was struck by just how many novels she completed in her lifetime, and how little of her considerable output I’ve sampled over the years. I thought, if it’s okay with all of you, I’d deviate from our flight plan slightly to take a look at some of the marvelous books she left us.

To start with, I’d like to showcase the pairing of Lee with one of my favorite cover artists. Sanjulian painted the covers for the 1988 DAW editions of all three novels of The Wars of Vis: The Storm Lord, Anackire, and The White Serpent, a series which the publisher labeled a “best-selling epic of war torn-empires, alien gods, and a Witch race with the power to reshape a world…” Over her long career Lee has been blessed with some of the best cover artists in the business — including Michael Whelan, Carl Lundgren, Paul Lehr, Don Maitz, and many others — but she rarely did better than these three.

[Click the covers to see bigger versions.]

The Storm Lord 1976-smallThe Storm Lord was originally published in paperback by DAW Books in May 1976, less than a year after her first novel with DAW  (and her first foray into adult fiction), The Birthgrave, appeared in 1975. DAW didn’t really seem to know how to market it, and the original cover, by Gino D’Achille (right), dressed it up as fairly routine sword and sorcery.

Anackire appeared in 1983, with a much more memorable Michael Whelan cover (see below)… although that had the definite drawback of providing no visual linkage with the first book, which probably didn’t help fans — who’d already waited seven years for a sequel — to readily identify it.

When the third and final volume, The White Serpent, appeared in 1988 with a Sanjulian cover, DAW spent the money to have him also paint matching covers for the first two. The result was quite striking, especially when the books are laid side by side.

They also re-wrote the (frankly rather lackluster) back cover text for the new editions, playing up the epic aspects of the tale. Here’s the text for the back of the 1988 edition of The Storm Lord:

World Slayer, World Saver…

Dorthar was an empire divided, a land of master race and slave people, a realm where gods and goddesses woke to walk the land, carving pathways of terrifying destruction. Into this world poised precariously on the brink of doom, Raldnor was born.

Raldnor, illegitimate son of the Storm Lord, tyrannical ruler of the land, and Ashne’e, priestess of the goddess Anackire. Raldnor, child of power raised secretly among those enslaved by the Storm Lord’s conquest, trained in the arts of weaponry and the ways of power. Raldnor, who, seeking his lost heritage, would change the very fate of empires, as his thirst for vengeance fueled a war that would set the world ablaze!

The Storm Lord

Be sure to read Anackire and The White Serpent, the second and third novels in this magnificent DAW trilogy of a world beset by warfare and sorcery.

Anackire 1983-smallTanith Lee has produced several acclaimed and famous series, and many standalone novels. But with only one exception (which we’ll cover in a future post), these are the Lee books that I find most appealing, and they’re likely the ones I’ll open first as I begin my exploration of her substantial back catalog.

The Storm Lord was published by DAW in April 1988. It is 350 pages, priced at $3.95 in paperback.

Anackire was published by DAW in April 1988. It is 414 pages, priced at $3.95 in paperback.

The White Serpent was published by DAW in April 1988. It is 396 pages, priced at $3.95 in paperback.

All three novels have been out of print since 1988, and there are no digital edition available in the US.

We’ve covered the following Tanith Lee books so far:

The Novels of Tanith Lee: The Wars of Vis by John O’Neill
The Novels of Tanith Lee: Tales From the Flat Earth by John O’Neill
The Novels of Tanith Lee: The Secret Books of Paradys by John O’Neill
The Novels of Tanith Lee: Days of Grass by John O’Neill
The Collections of Tanith Lee by John O’Neill
Tanith Lee’s Secret Books of Paradys by Matthew David Surridge
Return to The Flat Earth: Reviving a Masterpiece by John R. Fultz
Tanith Lee’s Lionwolf Trilogy by John R. Fultz

See all of our recent Vintage Treasures here.

24 Comments »

  1. I remember picking up the original versions at the college bookstore sometime back in the late 1980s. I admit the original cover for Storm Lord is frankly terrible, but I do love the Whelan cover for Anackire. I didn’t even realize there was a third book in the series until many years later when I started really diving into Lee’s back catalog.

    Comment by Joe H. - May 27, 2015 11:54 am

  2. Yeah, I certainly agree the Whelan cover is terrific. I wonder what Whelan could have done with the other two novels, if they’d hired him instead of Sanjulian?

    Comment by John ONeill - May 27, 2015 12:01 pm

  3. I’ve read MOST of Tanith’s series, but WARS OF VIS is one that I haven’t read yet–a year or two ago I acquired the first two volumes in a collected hardback edition, and I found the third volume with the Sanjulian cover (shown above). They’ve been sitting on my TO-READ shelf just waiting for the perfect moment–along with the Norilana edition of DELIRIUM’S MISTRESS (which is due for my third reading). I have never seen the first two volumes with the Sanjulian covers, but they are gorgeous! Thanks for posting them. I talked to Vera Nazarian yesterday about Tanith’s possible unpublished books, and she told me that DAW had recently re-acquired the rights to Tanith’s books. So my fingers are crossed that they will 1) bring a LOT of her catalog back into print, 2) publish the latest FLAT EARTH story collection–which could collect all her Flat Earth tales written since the last collection in ’87, and 3) there MIGHT be a final Flat Earth novel–EARTH’S MASTER–that Tanith was planning to write. But Vera didn’t know if Tanith finished it before getting ill. Anyway, I’m glad DAW is getting back into the Tanith Lee business. I’ve been a fan of hers for over 20 years and I’m STILL discovering books and stories I haven’t read by her.

    Comment by John R. Fultz - May 27, 2015 3:25 pm

  4. John F. — If anyone needs me, I’ll be sitting here REALLY, REALLY, REALLY hoping that what you heard was correct, and that we’ll eventually get US ebooks of her back catalog, and a small, final selection of hitherto unreleased dark gems to console us.

    (And aren’t those Norilana editions gorgeous? I’m sad that we didn’t see additional releases.)

    Comment by Joe H. - May 27, 2015 4:17 pm

  5. John,

    That’s great news! I’ll keep my ear to the ground for any news on upcoming releases, and make some noise about it hear as soon as I hear something.

    And I’m glad you like the Sanjulian covers. He’s one of the finest S&S artists in the business.

    Comment by John ONeill - May 27, 2015 4:26 pm

  6. As it happens, these

    http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51KpAprPwvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

    are what I was most familiar with Sanjulian from.

    Comment by Joe H. - May 27, 2015 4:40 pm

  7. Yes, the Norilana FLAT EARTH editions are some of the “crown jewels” in my book collection (but I still can’t bear to part with my old sci-fi book club FLAT EARTH collection.

    Comment by John R. Fultz - May 27, 2015 5:51 pm

  8. (I mean “editions”, not collection)

    Comment by John R. Fultz - May 27, 2015 5:52 pm

  9. One of the things I’ve been meaning to write about was the omnibus collections from the Science Fiction Book Club. They introduced me to so many great writers when I was just getting started.

    I wasn’t even aware there was a FLAT EARTH omnibus from the SFBC. I just looked it up — there are two:

    Tales from the Flat Earth: Night’s Daughter (1987
    Tales from the Flat Earth: The Lords of Darkness (1987)

    I’ll definitely add those to the list!

    Comment by John ONeill - May 27, 2015 6:06 pm

  10. John: Two other Lee standout series are the BOOKS OF PARADYS and the BOOKS OF VENUS. However, the one that I wish would get more attention is the LIONWOLF trilogy–her LAST series (2005-2008). It really flew under the radar for some reason, but it’s epic, magical, and fantastic in every way. (As you know, I did a writeup about it back in 2010 right here at BG.) Time for a well-packaged reprinting of Tanith’s final Great Work.

    Comment by John R. Fultz - May 27, 2015 6:06 pm

  11. > Time for a well-packaged reprinting of Tanith’s final Great Work.

    Maybe we can nudge a publisher to consider it, John.

    I’ll doing write-ups on more of Tanith Lee’s classic fantasy over the next few weeks, and I’ll certainly cover both the BOOKS OF PARADYS and the BOOKS OF VENUS. You’ve already done a definitive job on the LIONWOLF trilogy, but if I get a chance I’ll mention it as well.

    Comment by John ONeill - May 27, 2015 6:09 pm

  12. > As it happens, these are what I was most familiar with Sanjulian from.

    Joe,

    Wow, now you’re tapping some brain cells that have been dormant for a long time. I don’t recognize the name Peter Danielson, but that cover looks familiar, so I must have seen it on the racks at some point.

    Did you ever read the books? Were they memorable?

    Comment by John ONeill - May 27, 2015 6:12 pm

  13. I still have the two SFBC Flat Earth books on my shelf — they were part of my initial order when I joined back in 1989/1990. Together with, I think, the Fafhrd omnibi and maybe Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow & Thorn?

    As for the series I linked … It was the Children of the Lion series by Peter Danielson — a lengthy (18 volumes, I think? although I only have the first 12 and I think my reading lost momentum before I got even that far) series that’s basically retelling the Old Testament as historical fiction with a soupcon of romance. I do remember enjoying the first few books, at least, but was kind of turned off when, in one volume, the villain was an Egyptian “sorcerer” who used mass hypnosis to make everyone think they were seeing demons. Or something like that — this was also back in the late 1980s that I was reading them.

    Comment by Joe H. - May 27, 2015 8:09 pm

  14. John F. — Did Lionwolf ever get a US release? I got the feeling that a bunch of Lee’s later work only came out in the UK.

    Comment by Joe H. - May 27, 2015 8:10 pm

  15. Joe: Yes, LIONWOLF came out in the UK, but according to daughterofthenight.com, it didn’t get a US release. I remember that I had to order them–I didn’t find them in my local B&N. I wasn’t going to let a little thing like “no US release” stop me from reading these! Perhaps there will eventually be a US release. (I don’t know if DAW got the rights to these from TOR’s UK division–but I hope so.) I think it’s criminal that they didn’t get released in the US–they would have made much more of a splash. But my advice is to NOT wait for US editions, but to go onto Amazon and get your UK editions as soon as possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if they sell out now that Tanith has passed…

    Comment by John R. Fultz - May 27, 2015 10:21 pm

  16. Joe: Looks like CAST A BRIGHT SHADOW (VOLUME 1 of the LIONWOLF trilogy) was released in e-book form only in 2013. As of yet, the 2nd and 3rd volumes haven’t been published in e-book format. It boggles my mind why a huge publisher like TOR would release ANY book in the UK only and completely ignore the US audience–not to mention the rest of the world. TOR is weird.

    Comment by John R. Fultz - May 27, 2015 10:26 pm

  17. (I hate these freakin’ typos, and the fact that this board doesn’t let you EDIT your freakin’ posts!!!) I didn’t mean “”in e-book form only”–I meant that was the only book of the trilogy to be released in e-book format so far. Whew…

    Comment by John R. Fultz - May 27, 2015 10:28 pm

  18. Oh, there are many things about ebook publication that drive me insane. DAW currently has books 1, 2, 3, and 5 of C.J. Cherryh’s Chanur books available electronically. I see German and Spanish editions of Zelazny’s Lord of Light and Dilvish the Damned, but no English-language release. Most of Tanith Lee’s earlier work is available electronically on Amazon UK but not Amazon US.

    I know it’s a complicated situation, especially with older books — there are rights issues, and the actual conversion process (since I doubt that suitable files exist for books published prior to, say, the mid-1990s). But I. Don’t. Care. I just want the books and would be happy to pay for them.

    (The Daw/Cherryh situation in particular strikes me as egregious — don’t release a series with a hole in it like that. Just don’t. Tor did the same thing with Gene Wolfe’s Long Sun books — 1, 2 and 4 (or maybe 1, 3 and 4?) are out electronically.)

    I may just have to mosey on over to Amazon UK and get hardcopy Lionwolf editions …

    Comment by Joe H. - May 27, 2015 10:38 pm

  19. Oh, and speaking of Tanith Lee books, this is another one that I had no idea existed until I stumbled across a (British paperback) copy at Uncle Hugo’s a few years back. Still haven’t read it; must rectify that.

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1290233.The_Blood_of_Roses

    Comment by Joe H. - May 27, 2015 10:41 pm

  20. > Oh, and speaking of Tanith Lee books, this is another one that I had no idea existed…

    Joe,

    Holy cats! You’re not the only one who had no idea that book existed.

    Another lovely thing about Tanith Lee… she continues to surprise me with her output. With 90+ books to her credit, I will likely be exploring her work until I die…

    Comment by John ONeill - May 27, 2015 10:48 pm

  21. Indeed!

    Comment by John R. Fultz - May 28, 2015 12:01 am

  22. And I just ordered all three Lionwolf books — the Amazon US store has them all available for relatively reasonable prices from assorted resellers — the whole trilogy set me back less than $25 including shipping.

    Comment by Joe H. - May 28, 2015 10:19 am

  23. Sounds like a bargain, Joe. I may have to do the same thing myself this week.

    Comment by John ONeill - May 28, 2015 10:22 am

  24. Fantastic! I really want to go back and do a re-read of the series. The epic scope and sheer SCALE of the magic involved is something I want to revisit, and the fact that I had to wait THREE YEARS for the third volume (after reading 1 and 2 in the same year) kind of diminished the “payoff”…it’s hard to remember all the details and subplots from something you read three years ago. So I’ll dive back in eventually and read the whole trilogy again, this time back-to-back as intended. I still haven’t decided if LIONWOLF is my second-favorite Lee series (after FLAT EARTH), but it’s definitely close…

    Comment by John R. Fultz - May 28, 2015 12:50 pm


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