Williams, Liz 1965-

views updated

WILLIAMS, Liz 1965-


Female. Born 1965; daughter of a magician and a novelist. Education: University of Manchester and University of Sussex, degrees in philosophy and artificial intelligence; University of Cambridge, Ph.D., 1993.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Random House, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.


Writer. Worked at various odd jobs, including Tarot card reader, administrator of education program in Kazakhstan, and educational consultant; Brighton Women's Center, Brighton, England, information technology manager.


The Ghost Sister, Bantam/Spectra (New York, NY), 2001.

Empire of Bones, Bantam/Spectra (New York, NY), 2002.

The Poison Master, Bantam/Spectra (New York, NY), 2003.


Nine Layers of Sky, a novel.


The daughter of a gothic novelist and a part-time magician, Liz Williams was naturally drawn to the world of fantasy and the occult, even working for a time as a Tarot card reader. Much of her interest has been channeled into writing fantasy stories and, more recently, full-length novels that have garnered attention from a wide assortment of critics, both in her native England and the United States.

The Ghost Sister, Williams' debut novel, is set on the space colony of Monde D'Isle, whose inhabitants have developed a mysterious bond to the land that allows them to predict weather changes, travel by ley lines, find precious water and occasionally go feral with a wildness called the bloodmind. Those without this bond are dismissed as "ghosts," outcasts and embarrassments to their families. The story centers on the efforts of Eleres to heal his sister Mevennen, one of these ghosts. "On the surface, this novel is Eleres's hero's journey—his quest to help his sister and to comprehend his world. Below the surface, however, it is a parable about the consequences of action without understanding," wrote Voice of Youth Advocates contributor Marsha Valance. Eventually, the two siblings encounter an off-worlder, a "Gaian" priestess who is part of an expedition from the colony's home-world, sent to discover what went wrong. "What the expedition learns about the history of the colony comes as a surprise to all. But the solution, as with so many puzzle stories, seems less interesting than the setup," concluded New York Times reviewer Gerald Jonas. Others were happier with the results. Writing for InfinityPlus.co.uk, Chris Butler maintained, "The first thing to say about The Ghost Sister is that the concept is quite breathtaking in its elegance. The reader has a sense of this quite early on, but it becomes crystal clear on reaching the end. The novel is also beautifully written, with engaging characters, and it confounds expectations while at the same time surpassing them."

Williams followed her debut with Empire of Bones, a "first contact" story of a young girl's encounter with an alien species. While most such tales have been set in Europe or the United States, Williams' is set in a future India where fundamentalist Hindus have restored the caste system. Jaya Nihalani, member of the Untouchable cast, has been a prophet, a warrior, and civil rights crusader, but now she lays dying in a hospital from an incurable disease known as Selenge. There she begins to have visions of the Rasatrans, the alien species that first seeded the earth so long ago, who are drawn to Jaya, a rare "Receiver" able to communicate with them. "The homeworld of Rasatra's politics, culture and social structure is crafted in such intricate detail it feels as if Liz Williams is a native social anthropologist," noted Harriet Klausner on BooksnBytes.com. It turns out that the Rasatrans are eager to absorb a now-developed Earth into their empire, and Jaya is the key to ensuring a peaceful transition. This time New York Times reviewer Jonas was more impressed, writing that Jaya's "wary alliance with a similarly minded alien forms the heart of this savvy and satisfying tale."

While these first two novels contain "sophisticated tales of cultural confrontations, according to Jonas The Poison Master strikes out in a new direction, less easy to categorize and in some ways more challenging." Set on a planet called Latent Emanation, Williams' third novel centers on Alivet Dee, a descendant of the Elizabethan magus John Dee and a skilled apothecary and alchemist in her own right. When her sister is taken as a slave by the alien Lords of the Night who tyrannize her world, Alivet finds herself teaming up with off-worlder Ari Ghairen, the Poison Master, who is determined to overthrow the Lords. "Part alien adventure and part existential exploration, this top-notch tale establishes Williams … as an author to watch," concluded a Publishers Weekly reviewer.



New York Times Book Review, July 29, 2001, Gerald Jonas, review of The Ghost Sister, p. 14; June 16, 2002, Gerald Jonas, review of Empire of Bones, p. 18; January 5, 2003, Gerald Jonas, review of The Poison Master, p. 18.

Publishers Weekly, December 2, 2002, review of The Poison Master, p. 39.

Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 2001, Marsha Valance, review of The Ghost Sister, pp. 374-375.


BooksnBytes.com,http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (July 14, 2003), Harriet Klausner, review of Empire of Bones.

InfinityPlus.co.http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/ (July 14, 2003), Chris Butler, review of The Ghost Sister.

Liz Williams Home Page,http://www.arkady.btinternet.co.uk/ (July 14, 2003).*

About this article

Williams, Liz 1965-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article