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Wheel of the Infinite    by Martha Wells order for
Wheel of the Infinite
by Martha Wells
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2001 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

The Wheel of the Infinite is Martha Wells' fourth novel; for each she has discovered totally different but equally intriguing and exotic worlds. The Celestial Empire, with its great Temple City of Duvalpore, is in some ways the most fully realised. The first half of the book, Maskelle's journey with a troupe of actors and puppeteers through the jungle rains to Duvalpore, is a masterly evocation of all the senses. The rain, the heat, and the mud; the tension, the danger, and the fear; are palpable.

Maskelle was once the Voice of the Adversary, one of the most revered of the high priesthood of the Empire. Then she committed a great crime, and was dishonoured and exiled, but for some reason has been called back to Duvalpore by the Celestial One himself, and is travelling secretly in the company of the actors. By accident, she meets and rescues Rian, a master swordsman from a distant land, who is himself exiled, and who attaches himself to her as bodyguard. Though much younger, he becomes her lover.

Every year a ritual in the Temple City renews the world through the making of the image of the Wheel of the Infinite. The one hundred year ritual now underway is vastly more important than the usual yearly one, but a black storm has appeared in the image, and although it is repaired each day, each morning it reappears. The Celestial One fears that only Maskelle can discover the cause of the disturbance and save the world from destruction.

Maskelle is an attractive and acerbic character, and Rian makes an excellent foil. The use of the troupe of actors as a backdrop is an ingenious invention. An acting troupe was also used to advantage in the author's first book, The Element of Fire, but this time Wells has more fully exploited the potential. She seems to have left the door open to further adventures with Maskelle and Rian in this intriguing world; I look forward hopefully to meeting them again.

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