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The Gift    by Patrick O'Leary order for
by Patrick O'Leary
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 1998 (1997)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Teller tells his tale of monsters and wizards while crew and Captain listen, as do we. The Gift'stales within tales are all worth hearing. The first is the mystery of the beautiful and naked young woman caught up dead in the fishing nets. Who is she and how did she get there? O'Leary wisely keeps silent on this till the end, as he continues with happy and sad tales, short and long, heroic and prosaic stories. All of them touch each other and the reader.

There is the one about the monstrous Tomen (the Beast with no Heart) and the Usher of the Night, who try to take death from the world so that they can live forever. Then we hear about young Prince Simon, who loses his father and develops an illness resulting in deafness at the same time. He is given the gift of hearing again, but at a terrible price. Simon seeks justice in a long and seemingly hopeless quest.

There is the tale of Tim, a woodcutter's son, who undergoes a rite of passage and grows up as we read. Tim learns to become the Wind Tamer and to love his teachers, the first and last being Marty the Waterman. The white eagle asks Tim what kills fire and teaches him to see himself, to ride the winds and to end things that need an ending. Tim learns about death, and the man that he becomes Between continues this lesson of endings. Tim's and Simon's stories come together against the monster, with help from the Magic Eater, Marty and others. Of course, the Usher has heard the stories too and he's ready for them.

But the truth is that all these tales are really one tale ... the Teller tells it and, like Mother Death, he knows when to end it. As O'Leary says there are three types of endings ... Those that stop, those that pause, and those that begin. The Teller's ending goes back to the beginning and finally explains the mystery that started it all.

If anything, this story is reminiscent of Patricia McKillip's Riddle Master of Hed, but it stands on its own as a wonderful addition to the Fantasy genre. Please tell us more tales, Mr. O'Leary.

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