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Born to Exile by Phyllis Eisenstein

Born to Exile (original 1978; edition 1989)

by Phyllis Eisenstein (Author)

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252384,835 (3.77)18
The solitary wanderings of a minstrel with preternatural powers lead him to many adventures before he is ultimately restored to his supernatural antecedents, the Lords of All Power.
Title:Born to Exile
Authors:Phyllis Eisenstein (Author)
Info:Roc (1989), 1 pages
Collections:Your library

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Born To Exile by Phyllis Eisenstein (1978)


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  rustyoldboat | May 28, 2011 |
This was marketed as a novel, but it's actually a series of five interconnected novellas that chronicle the adventures of Alaric, a young minstrel with a talent for teleportation. Most of the tales were originally published in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, which is where I myself discovered them. I enjoyed "The Witch and the Well" quite a bit; it was a classic fantasy tale, full of suspicious townsfolk, strange magic and mysterious coincidences. I was glad to see that the stories had been collected into a single volume, which I promptly acquired on BookMooch.

The rest of the stories all work in the same vein. They're nothing too momentous, but if you're looking for a nice dose of 70's-style fantasy, they're certainly worth reading. Eisenstein paints a fairly convincing picture of medievalesque life. Strange as it's going to sound, I especially appreciated her treatment of sex. Most literature tends to romanticize sex, but I'd argue that fantasy is particularly bad in that regard. It's replete with One True Loves and Destined Relationships. Eisenstein's characters, however, are pretty casual about the whole thing. It's not a commitment, and it doesn't mean that they're going to fall madly in love with one another. Furthermore, sex with someone other than their best beloved isn't any sort of betrayal. It's just, you know, something you do when you're separated from the person you really want to be with. To be honest, I found it kind of refreshing. Alaric's relationship with the Princess Solinde is a rather bells and whistles, ('cause this is a traditional fantasy), but the rest of his liaisons are realistically subdued.

I will say, though, that I was expecting a bit more from the stories as a whole. They're good, but they're not exactly groundbreaking. I would've liked a little more insight into each of the characters, and it felt like Eisenstein could've delved deeper into the connections between them. There's a lot of surface here, and it wasn't quite enough to sustain my interest.

Still: if you're looking for a fantasy with a decidedly 1970's feel, (which I was), you could do a lot worse.

(A slightly different version of this review originally appeared on my blog, Stella Matutina). ( )
  xicanti | Nov 28, 2009 |
Orphaned teleporting harper strolls the world and finds his true love, but the father has other ideas and he must stroll some more. Eventually he meets his real family with numerous cousins, but life isn't to smooth here either. A wonderfully crafted tale set in a detailed world.

After -re-read:

Short but really very enjoyable. Written in the 70s, it is much more compact than today's fantasy epics. It has the feel of 70s SciFi originally written for serial publication, and now bound into a novel without much connection. It still works well. While a lot more adventures could have been had. Alric the minsteral with a 'magical' teleportation power, meets a princess, gets exiled, finds some companions in the vast forest, before reaching "civilisation" in the West. There is little in the way of symbolism here, at most some thoughts on different meanings of the word family.
It is not yet clear if there is any other magic in the world, or just this one unusual trait.

It is well written through, with Alric as the only main character, but those he meets are well established - it is clear the author has thoroughly thought through how the world works - both for ordinary people and the gentry. People are human everywhere - predjudiced and suspicious of strangers.This thinking through the world is something that is far too often lacking in even major fantasy works. It is a shame that Phyllis isn't better known, and has only written a few books. The style is simple, yet clear and compelling. There is one instance when the focus comes off Alric, which is unecessary and foreshadows somewhat, but beyond that nothing to fault.

Enjoyable simple fantasy. Read it. ( )
  reading_fox | Nov 3, 2006 |
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To Alex, without whose support this book could never have been written
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The sun of Alaric's fifteenth summer beat down on his head as he stared at the moat, the drawbridge, and the broad walls of Castle Royale.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The solitary wanderings of a minstrel with preternatural powers lead him to many adventures before he is ultimately restored to his supernatural antecedents, the Lords of All Power.

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For eight weary months Alaric the minstrel has trudged the lonely road of exile. Born with preternatural powers, he had been found abandoned on a hillside, newborn and naked, a bloody severed hand clutching his ankles. Rejected by his foster family as a witch child, separated by death from his only companion, Alaric now wanders through the world as a solitary wayfarer, a knapsack and lute his sole possessions.
In the distance rise the craggy towers and shining spires of Castle Royale, gleaming like a vision to the hapless outcast. Within, Alaric is accepted as court minstrel to the King, but then becomes embroiled in a turmoil of palace intrigue involving Medron the magician and the lovely Princess Solinde. After journeying subsequently to the sinister Inn of the Black Swan and to a superstition-ensorcelled village, Alaric ultimately is restored by circumstances to his supernatural antecedents, the Lords of All Power.
Phyllis Eisenstein's fantasy novel belongs within the imaginary-world tradition of J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard, and yet represents an achievement of remarkable originality and psychological insight. Born To Exile is a haunting tale of mystery and adventure, of witchcraft and sorcery, of love and longing ...... and of a wandering minstrel who remained an outsider in his own world.
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