PrintE-mail Written by Ian White

When Abe and his long-time partner Joanna befriend the mysterious, hypnotically beautiful young woman they find waitressing at their local diner, they cannot be prepared for what happens next. No sooner has Lioness Lazos taken up residence in Abe’s garage than the Puget Sound island on which they live begins to enjoy unseasonably glorious weather. And Lioness’s arrival doesn’t just affect the seasons – Abe, a resolutely private man who plays his harmonica just to annoy the neighbours, suddenly finds himself drawn into a Blues Band and enjoying a lease on life he never thought possible, whereas Joanna – who has always had a deep fear of the water – inexplicably discovers a passion for kayaking. And Joanna’s grown-up daughter Lily has also fallen under Lioness’s spell, harder and more dangerously than Abe or her mother. But when Lioness’s terrible secret is revealed, life will never be the same again, not for any of them.

Peter S. Beagle’s latest novel is a bewitching, impossible-to-categorise masterpiece. Is it a romance, a fairytale, or a fantasy that straddles reality and mythology, with (especially in the scenes involving Joanna and a strangely out-of-time old man called Mr. Mardikian) the slightest hint of wonderful supernatural romcoms like ‘Bell Book and Candle’ and ‘I Married a Witch’? Or is it suggesting that we are never too old to chase our dreams, even if our dreams come at a price, so maybe we should be careful what we wish for? It is probably all of these and more, and even if you find yourself half-guessing Lioness’s secret long before it is actually revealed, the climax will still take you by surprise and may even break your heart a little. With prose that is more akin to poetry, Beagle’s storytelling casts a spell as potent as Lioness’s magic – if magic is what it is – and his characters, especially Abe and Joanna, are exquisite creations. It’s so good to read a story wherein older people are allowed to be the ‘heroes’ of the adventure, and not relegated to the supporting cast. As a fantasy, this might not have enough darkness for many readers, but as a work of fantastical art it is flawless.


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