Female. Education: Attended King's College, Cambridge and College of Law.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Orbit, Time Warner Books, Brettenham House, Lancaster Place, London WC2E 7EN, England. E-mail—[email protected]
Solicitor, c. 1985-98; writer.
Children of the Shaman, Orbit (London, England), 2001.
The Glass Mountain, Orbit (London, England), 2002.
Jessica Rydill is the author of a series of fantasy novels set in a world with many striking parallels to ours. The major religions in Rydill's fictional world, Doxoi and Wanderers, are almost-butnot-quite Christians and Jews, respectively. The Doxoi's savior was broken on the wheel rather than crucified, and the savior's mother is worshipped as a powerful goddess. Europe is recognizable, but instead of being an advanced society that colonizes India and China, those countries have far outstripped it. The characters speak in languages that are very close to French and Slavic, mixed with Hebrew and Yiddish. The technology is mostly nineteenth century, with steam-powered railways and other industrial technologies, but magic inhabits the world as well.
The major characters in Children of the Shaman are Eastern European wanderers: Yuda Vasilyevich, a shaman and senior guard who is on his way to work on a railway tunnel being built in the frozen north, and his two children, Annat and Malchik. Annat and Malchik have lived with their aunt since their father abandoned the family twelve years previously. Annat, at least, is excited about being reunited with her father. She has inherited the gift of shamanism from him, and she hopes that he can help her to develop it. Malchik, on the other hand, is an introspective bookworm with little taste for the muscular, combative world of shamans and guards. The boy is eventually kidnapped, leaving Annat and Yuda, with the help of two of Yuda's friends, to rescue him from the otherworldly La Souterraine. In the sequel, The Glass Mountain, a magus named Seymon works to resurrect a prince that Yuda killed, but he needs Yuda's heart as well as Annat and Malchik's souls to complete his spell. The tone of these books is dark, as Yuda and his children square off against evil characters wielding powerful magic. Paula Luedtke noted in a Booklist review of Children of the Shaman, "Answers aren't easy, and endings aren't tritely happy, though the promise of light and redemption lies shrouded by the tale's heady dark mystery."
A much-commented-upon aspect of Rydill's world is that the shamans, who are warriors as well as healers, are all bisexual. "I liked the idea that Yuda could be homosexual, and feminine, and maybe vulnerable—and then he has this other, macho side!" Rydill explained in an online interview for Science Fiction and Fantasy World.
Several reviewers praised Rydill's descriptive power and attention to detail. She writes "really quite well-turned prose," Simeon Shoul wrote on InfinityPlus.com, and has "a fine eye for dress, behaviour, scene, [and] place." To SFSite.com reviewer Steven H. Silver, that eye lets her "build a wonderfully tactile world of color, sound and temperature," where a "train moving through the wilderness is depicted with love in an almost cinematic manner," and "her characters' food and drink almost come to life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 1, 2003, Paula Luedtke, review of Children of the Shaman, p. 979.
Guardian (London, England), December 21, 2002, Jon Courtenay, review of The Glass Mountain.
Kliatt, July, 2003, Deirdre B. Root, review of Children of the Shaman, pp. 34-35.
InfinityPlus.com,http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/ (June 14, 2004), Simeon Shoul, review of Children of the Shaman.
Science Fiction and Fantasy World Web site,http://www.sffworld.com/ (August, 2001), interview with Rydill.
SFBookcase.com,http://www.sfbookcase.com/ (June 14, 2004), "Jessica Rydill."
Shamansland: Jessica Rydill Home Page,http://www.shamansland.com (June 14, 2004).*