Born in Chicago in 1946, Phyllis Eisenstein has lived there for most of her life and is an author of SF/F short stories and novels. She attended the University of Chicago during the 1960s, then returned to study and achieved a degree in anthropology from the University of Illinios in 1981. For those who may be further interested she is on Facebook. Mrs. Eisenstein has had a long career, her first SF/F work appeared in the 1970s and her last work, a novella, appeared in 2007. Over the years I have read most of the lady’s work, and liked everything I read as a ‘read once’ .But only one book has remained firmly in my permanent library to be read and re-read over and over again. This is Sorcerer’s Son, which I purchased at the time the book appeared in 1979. The work is a simple quest story on the face of it but it moves into something more, a consideration of slavery, the need to find family roots, and the inevitable loss parents suffer when a child grows up and leaves home. In one way or another the book spoke to many readers and reading it again, I do not see that it’s lost any of its appeal since publication over thirty years ago.
Sorcerer’s Son begins with the rejection of the sorcerer Smada Rezhyk the Demonmaste’s proposal of marriage, by Delivev Ormoru, sorceress of Castle Spinweb. Rezhyk is a rampant paranoid, he immediately assumes that if the lady doesn’t want to marry him it’s because she secretly hates him and is plotting his destruction. There’s no logical basis for his assumption, but Eisenstein makes his ranting and suspicion very believable. Rezhyk summons his favorite demon, Gildrum, who reminds him that a sorceress who is pregnant is diminished in power, giving Rezhyk time to take precautions against any attack she might make. Gildrum, bearing Rezhyk’s seed and in the guise of a handsome wounded young knight (Mellor) seduces Delivev, impregnates her and departs with an acceptable excuse. Rezhyk has assumed that Delivev will rid herself of the child once she realizes, but instead and unbeknown to Master and enslaved demon, she raises, and loves her son deeply and it is not until Cray is around fourteen that they discover the boy’s existence.
Rezhyk promptly becomes far more paranoid, assuming again that this is some deeply laid plot to destroy him using his son and ignoring the fact that Delivev has no knowledge that Rezhyk is the actual father rather than the young knight she loved.
Meanwhile Cray has determined to become a knight like his father and sest out on a quest to discover what happened to the man and why he never returned as he promised. Along the way he makes a good friend, and the demon Gildrum, having become very humanized over the years, and having genuinely loved Delivev, and come to love Cray as his son, watches over Cray’s journeying. Each discovery Cray makes leads him to worse conclusions about his father until he finds he is up against a brick wall and that only becoming a demonmaster and forcing a powerful demon to tell him the truth will answer his question. So he goes to the only demonmaster he knows, Rezhyk, and asks to be an apprentice. Naturally Rezhyk leaps to the conclusion that this is just the final step in a long plan by Delivev to destroy him. Where the story goes from there is logical and emotionally believable and wound the book up in a satisfying conclusion. I recommend the work to lovers of good fantasy and to adoptees with whom it will resonate.
Tales of Alaric the Minstrel
1. Born to Exile (1977)
2. In the Red Lord’s Reach (1989)
Series Novels (The Book of Elementals)
1. Sorcerer’s Son (1979) (free download if you look for it)
2. The Crystal Palace (1988)
The Book of Elementals (omnibus) (2002)
3. The City in Stone (2004)
Shadow of Earth (1979)
In the Hands of Glory (1981)
Walker Between the Worlds (2007)
Night Lives: Nine Stories of the Dark Fantastic (2003) (with Alex Eisenstein)
Anthologies containing stories by Phyllis Eisenstein
The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories 4 (1978)
Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year 1978 (1979)
Shadows 5 (1982)
New Eves: Science Fiction About the Extraordinary Women of Today and Tomorrow (1994)
“Attachment” (1975) Nebula (nominee)
“The Land of Sorrow” (1977)
“Lost and Found” (1978)
“In the Western Tradition” (1981) Nebula (nominee) Hugo (nominee)
“Dark Wings” (1982)
“Nightlife” (1982) Hugo (nominee)
“Sense of Duty” (1985)
“The Island in the Lake” (1999) Nebula (nominee)