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The grand ellipse
Paula Volsky
Adult Fiction VOLSKY

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Richly inventive and breathlessly paced, this variation on the old "around the world" race theme surpasses Volsky's earlier acclaimed fantasy The White Tribunal in deft characterizations and sly, wry wit. Tottering on the brink of war, the Vonahr republic watches uneasily as Grewzland's "vainglorious mystic" imperior Ogron blitzes his unprepared neighbors. The traditionally neutral Low Herz, however, ruled by Ogron's womanizing dilettante cousin, Miltzin IX, possesses a fantastic new magical weapon with a mind of its ownDthe green Sentient Masterfire. When Miltzin decrees an international race called "The Grand Ellipse" for the wealth and status of a Herzian barony, luscious Vonahrish bluestocking Luzelle Devaire accepts her government's secret commission: win the race, convince the lascivious Miltzin to sell Masterfire to Vonahr, and thus annihilate Grewzland's militaristic threat for good. She also hopes to escape the life of genteel wifely servitude that her domineering father has arranged for her. As feisty and resourceful as her Victorian ancestors, Luzelle finds herself drawn to her two chief rivals, the elegant Vonahrish ex-Marquis Girays v'Alisante, her former fianc, and the noble Grewzian Overcommander Karsler Stornzof, product of the mystical Promontory, where honor counts more than life's blood itself. Although Volsky's well-crafted novel uses the traditional quest format common in fantasies, Luzelle and her admirers provide thrilling entertainment for readers of all genres as they hurtle from one narrow escape to another. Brimming with vibrant, exotic settings and Volsky's knack for utterly convincing dialogue (impeded only slightly by contorted consonants in proper names), this lively adventure makes for unflagging reading enjoyment that should appeal to a wide swath of SF and fantasy fans. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

When an ambitious and fanatical tyrant threatens to invade the rational republic of Vonahr, the leaders of that land resort to desperate measures to acquire a magical creation that could mean the difference between conquest and freedom. To help her country, a young Vonahrish adventuress enters the spectacular race known as the Grand Ellipse in the hopes of winning an audience with the king, who possesses the secret of "Sentient Fire." The author of The White Tribunal excels in portraying fantasy worlds steeped in quasihistorical authenticity and convincing "period detail." Reminiscent of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days and other "great race" novels, Volsky's latest sf adventure features an engaging heroine determined to live by her own rules, even at the cost of her heart's desire. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Luzelle Devaire
Entering the circumnavigational race representing Vonahr; does not wish to marry the man her father has chosen for her.

Girays v'Alisante
Elegant; Luzelle's former fiance and a rival in the great race.

Karsler Stornzof
Representing Grewzland in the great race; driven by honor; army overcommander.

Miltzin IX, King of Low Herz
Possesses a great weapon that would insure Vonahr's protection against invading Grewzland.

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