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Beyond the Hanging Wall    by Sara Douglass order for
Beyond the Hanging Wall
by Sara Douglass
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2003 (1996)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Sara Douglass is a prolific Australian fantasy author (her works include the enthalling Wayfarer Redemption and Troy Game series) whose books are being gradually introduced to the North American audience. Beyond the Hanging Wall is a simpler story than her usual fairly complex fantasies, and stands on its own.

It has elements of Dumas' Count of Monte Christo or The Man in the Iron Mask. Young prince Maximilian Persimius of Escator is enticed away from a hunting party and immured in the Veins, where criminals live short and cruel lives mining the dusty gloam. The king's distant cousin, Count Cavor, eventually succeeds to the throne. But every heir to Escator is marked with the blood of the Manteceros. It keeps the prince alive for seventeen long years and reveals him to a young healer named Garth, who has accompanied his father Joseph on a yearly visit to treat prisoners, and is highly talented with the Touch.

Garth secretly works to learn more about the legendary Manteceros and to free Maximilian, whose long captivity has caused him to deny his own identity. Garth is helped by a librarian monk, by a young dreamwalker named Ravenna, and by a secret society who have learned that their prince is not dead. There's a thrilling escape, aided by disguise as well as by Ravenna's magical talents, contact with the Manteceros, and capture, leading to a confrontation under the Hanging Wall between the prince and the new king. The Manteceros' test is unusual, as are aspects of the tale's ending.

Beyond the Hanging Wall is an exciting fantasy that can be enjoyed by both teen and adult readers.

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