PERSONAL: Female. Education: Attended Vassar College.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Random House, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Fantasy novelist.
The Curse of the Witch-Queen, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1982.
The Sorcerer's Lady, Ace (New York, NY), 1986.
The Luck of Relian Kru, Ace (New York, NY), 1987.
The Sorcerer's Heir, Ace (New York, NY), 1988.
The Sorcerer's Curse, Ace (New York, NY), 1989.
Illusion, Gollancz (London, England), 1991, Bantam (New York, NY), 1992.
The Wolf of Winter, Bantam (New York, NY), 1993.
The Gates of Twilight, Bantam (New York, NY), 1996.
The White Tribunal, Bantam (New York, NY), 1997.
The Grand Ellipse, Bantam Doubleday Dell (New York, NY), 2000.
Contributor of short stories to anthologies, including The Resurrected Holmes: New Cases from the Notes of John H. Watson, M.D., edited by Marvin Kaye, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.
SIDELIGHTS: Fantasy novelist Paula Volsky is the author of several books in the "Sorcerer" series, as well as other popular works in the genre. Volsky began writing fantasies in the 1980s and has continued for more than two decades, and as James Seidman observed in an SF Site review, she is noted for "excellent character development and rich, detailed settings." Although her works make liberal use of magic, Volsky also presents political situations that remind readers of real historic movements and events. She is also an author with depth, avoiding facile happy endings and taking aim at twenty-first-century issues through her otherworldly adventurers.
Volsky's first "Sorcerer" novel, The Sorcerer's Lady, is the story of Lady Verran, who is forced to marry Lord Terra Fal Grizhni, the old and very powerful magician of Lanthi Ume, capital city of the island of Dalyon. Laurel Anderson Tryforos, in reviewing the novel forFantasy Review, praised Volsky's characterization skills and described the sorcerer's rival, Gless Vallage as "appropriately slimy." While recommending the novel, Tryforos did feel that Volsky might have shown more of the heroine's "growing love for and understanding of her husband, particularly in light of the truly effective ending." Reviewing The Sorcerer's Lady in Voice of Youth Advocates, Dorothy Solomon noted that Volsky's "blend of gothic romance, sorcery, and political intrigue . . . is a good read." The second and third books of the trilogy are The Sorcerer's Heir and The Sorcerer's Curse.
Volsky's 1987 novel The Luck of Relian Kru follows the adventures of protagonist Relian, an apprentice/slave to the wizard Keprose. He falls in love with Mereth, a female apprentice, and does Keprose's bidding as the sorcerer attempts to clone himself. Tom Easton wrote in Analog that the humor of the novel lies in the wizard's pets, two metal snakes "that twine around Relian's and Mereth's throats and command them hither and thither at Keprose's behest."
In the critically acclaimed Illusion, Eliste vo Derrivalle is a lady-in-waiting to the wife of the king, the Exalted Class ruler of Nirienne. The Exalted Class, to which Eliste also belongs, is suffering from the loss of magical powers that had enforced their rule. The serfs and citizens rise against the Exalted, the monarchy falls, and Eliste fights for survival. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that the book is "richer" than Volsky's first two novels, "a delicious fantasy that reads like a historical novel."
The setting of The Wolf of Winter is Rhazauelle, a land that resembles eighteenth-century Russia. Its inhabitants practice necromancy, or communication with the dead, through the use of drugs and potions. The villain Varis is the sickly youngest of three brothers in the royal family. Tired of being the brunt of family jokes and longing to be ruler, he kills his middle brother Breziot, then calls up Breziot's ghost to lure his eldest brother, the ruling Ulor, to a roof, where he falls to his death. Breziot's widow wisely hides her two children, Cerrov and his sister, Shalindra, from Varis, who has now become ruler. Twelve years pass and Cerrov and Shalindra have raised an army to battle their uncle and his supernatural fighters. Locus contributor Wendy Bradley wrote that the author "deftly juggles the complex plot and supernatural elements while preserving the humaness of the characters." Bradley also noted that Volsky "manages to devise an ending which is both logically and emotionally consistent, a pleasing end to an eminently readable book." In Booklist, Candace Smith asserted: "From intriguing opening to satisfying conclusion, this is pure entertainment." Joyce Davidson pointed out in Voice of Youth Advocates that The Wolf of Winter is "long and complicated. . . . A novel with vivid scenes of murder and madness. Not for the casual fantasy reader, or the faint of heart. . . . I couldn't put it down."
A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called Volsky's 1996 work, The Gates of Twilight, "an uncommonly sophisticated fantasy." A revolution is planned by the residents of the Aveshquian city of ZuLaysa against the western Vonahrish occupiers. Critics commented that the setting suggests India during British rule. Renille vo Chaumelle, a westerner of local ancestry, and Ghochanna Jethondi, an Aveshquian princess, solicit help from the gods who walk the earth in rebellion against their foes. A Publishers Weekly reviewer cited as Volsky's greatest accomplishments "the depth of her characterizations and the subtlety of her portrait of the clash of dissimilar cultures." Roland Green wrote in Booklist that the author's "pacing and characterization . . . are thoroughly sound" and called The Gates of Twilight "her best book since Illusion."
The White Tribunal begs comparison to The Count of Monte Cristo and other novels where a wronged hero seeks revenge. In a land where sorcery has been outlawed, a White Tribunal sits in judgment of those who try to practice magic. Since the Tribunal confiscates the property of those it finds guilty, abuses of power are inevitable. Tradain liMarchborg is thirteen when his family is falsely accused of sorcery; while they are executed in brutal fashion, he is consigned to prison. He escapes to wreak revenge—using magic—but his actions exact a terrible toll on him as well. A Publishers Weekly reviewer felt that Volsky's "treatment of the supramundane realm is generally impressive" and that the novel as a whole "is wonderfully enjoyable." Although Seidman characterized the work as "dark" and "disturbing," he concluded that The White Tribunal is "a captivating book that is very difficult to put down."
A long race over demanding terrain forms the crux of the action in The Grand Ellipse. Faced with the possibility of world domination by a violent superpower nation, an adventuresome woman named Luzelle Devaire sets out to win a race that could provide her country with a weapon that could annihilate the invaders. Pitted against her in the race is a citizen of the superpower nation—and, representing another country, her former fiancé. In a starred review, a Publishers Weekly critic declared that the novel provides "thrilling entertainment for readers of all genres" and "makes for unflagging reading enjoyment." Booklist correspondent Sally Estes likewise enjoyed the "adventure laced with humor and romance" that comes to "a literally pyromaniacal conclusion."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Reginald, Robert, Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
Analog, February, 1988, p. 185.
Booklist, May 15, 1987, p. 1412; February 1, 1992, p. 1014; November 1, 1993, p. 505; February 1, 1996, Roland Green, review of The Gates of Twilight, p. 920; September 1, 2000, Sally Estes, review of The Grand Ellipse, p. 71.
Books, November, 1991, p. 19.
Fantasy Review, May, 1986, p. 25; December, 1986, p. 38.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 1991, p. 1504; October 1, 1993, p. 1233; January 1, 1996, p. 32.
Kliatt, May, 1996, p. 19.
Library Journal, November 15, 1991, p. 110; November 15, 1993, p. 103; March 15, 1996, Sue Hamburger, review of The Gates of Twilight, p. 98; September 15, 2000, Jackie Cassada, review of The Grand Ellipse, p. 118.
Locus, November, 1991, p. 27; March, 1992, p. 61; January, 1994, p. 29; June, 1994, p. 60; August, 1994, p. 33.
Publishers Weekly, November 29, 1991, p. 48; December 11, 1995, review of The Gates of Twilight, p. 66; March 4, 1996, p. 57; July 14, 1997, review of The White Tribunal, p. 70; September 25, 2000, review of The Grand Ellipse, p. 93.
Voice of Youth Advocates, August, 1986, p. 166; June, 1994, p. 102.
SF Site,http://www.sfsite.com/ (November 12, 2002), James Seidman, review of The White Tribunal.*