If I Pay Thee Not in Gold, by Piers Anthony, Mercedes Lackey

if-i-pay-thee-not-in-gold-by-piers-anthony-mercedes-lackey coverGenre: Fantasy
Publisher: Baen
Published: 1993
Reviewer Rating: three and a half stars
Book Review by Sarah Guidry

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At first glance, this appears to be a feminist work of the Chics ‘n Chain Mail variety. However, it doesn’t take reading much past the first few pages to reveal a jewel of an adventure story and a heroine to match.

Born into a society where women use magic to rule, Xylina was an outcast from birth. Cursed by familial past, she eeks out a living while other women live richly, with male slaves to perform labor. Xylina is considered weak, untalented in magic, and expendable. Therefore, when she is scheduled for the Trials all Mazonian women must endure — publicly defeating a male in an arena ala Roman Gladiator style — everyone knows that Xylina will be killed or executed for her defeat.

Pulling her wits and surprising magical prowess together, Xylina astounds everyone by defeating an enormous Mazonian male — and starts an adventure that changes her life. Newly befriended by her large male slave, Xylina begins life in the city, only to be dashed down by arson, ridiculous taxes, and thieves. In debt beyond her ability to pay, Xylina undertakes a quest by the Queen to seek a powerful crystal far beyond the borders of Mazonia.

And so, Xylina, her slave, and several others being their quest. Full of exotic lands, gutsy battles, cleverness, and a relationship with a very odd demon, this is definitely an adventure worth joining.

Love is redefined, the war between the sexes is looked at seriously and comically, and a coming-of-age story is told within the context of an ending-of-Ages epic.

Fans of either author, or anyone who loves a good fantasy adventure, will find this a pleasing read. Thoroughly thought out and entertaining.

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