Immortal Muse

museTitle: Immortal Muse
Publisher: DAW
Author: Stephen Leigh
Pages: 576 pp
Price: $24.95 (hardcover) / $11.99 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780756409562

I’m of two minds on this book.  While I liked the tale, I disliked the heroine.  You get about half way through the book before you have a good understanding of why she acts the way she does.  It was only because I had this review to write that I even made it that far.  While the heroine is more appealing than her antagonist, she still isn’t likeable.  This made getting “into” the book a bit of a slog.  Once I got past that point, I still didn’t like her but I understood her better and wanted to see how she got her act together.

Immortal Muse is the tale of an abused female alchemist, Perenelle Flamel, who spends her mortal life trying to find the alchemical formula for immortality.  In the middle of a life-ending beating from her husband, the alchemist ends up drinking some of her grand achievement to escape.  The elixir made her young again but it also came with a price.  Perenelle’s well-being depends on a feedback loop of the creativity she nurtures in others.  It also garners a lifelong enemy.  Her husband, Nicolas, who felt she cheated him by withholding the success of her experiments.  He tries to recreate her success until old and feeble, then consumes what was left of the original elixer.  While the elixir turned her into a muse, it turned him into a demon whose well-being depends upon the pain of others.  Through the ages, he chases her, demanding to know the final recipe of the elixir.  Yet she no longer remembers and has to recreate her experiments.  She can only do this while in a mutually beneficial relationship with someone of high creativity.  Yet Nicolas continues to hunt her down, killing everyone to whom she becomes close.

The book bounces back and forth between modern times and Perenelle’s storied past as a muse. Each chapter is named after one of the nine muses of mythology. If this book does anything, it underlines the draw backs of being immortal:  never being able to tell anyone the truth; never being able to stay in one place for too long; outliving everyone you loved; not to mention constantly looking over your shoulder, never knowing when, where or how your nemesis will appear.  Finally she takes a stand and still loses the one thing she wants more than anything to preserve.

This is an entertaining book, once one gets past the lack of sympathy for the main character, but it isn’t enthralling.  Perenelle tends to be more interested in her own well-being than those around her, continually caught up in her cycle of feed, recover, lose and hide.  The most enjoyment I got out of the book was in the author’s conception of the various artists that his character aids.  I would have enjoyed the tale more if Perenelle was less self-serving and had more care for her artists.  My dislike of the heroine overwhelmed the interesting concept.

[Melia Suez is a stay at home mom, a Hellenic polytheist, and the editor ofFrom Cave to Sky: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Zeus.]

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