Sara Douglass’ ninth novel and first in a new trilogy, The Nameless Day, is a slight departure from her highly successful Tencendor series, setting aside the more obvious tropes of fantasy, and concentrating instead on Douglass’ background as a historian.
The way medieval Europeans understood the world is starkly different from how we understand it today. People believed that they lived in a world of evil incarnate, where demons and angels walked the streets, and where God and Satan were in preparation for the final battle. Douglass carefully couches her story in terms of this worldview, which effectively blurs the boundaries between history and fantasy, making it uncertain as to whether her characters are really encountering angels and demons, or simply believe that they are.
This medieval worldview clashes with modern sensibilities, something that Douglass exploits.
At one point Douglass shows us the family of a talented woodcarver who has been required to work on a cathedral in Paris for a year, all unpaid and leaving his family to depend on the charity of his Guild to survive the honour. It’s an effective moment that clarifies just how different the world was.
Reminiscent of a rich blend of the historical fantasies of Mary Stewart and Guy Gavriel Kay, The Nameless Day is a strong opening to what should be an interesting and rewarding series.
©1999 Jonathan Strahan / Locus. This review originally appeared in Locus but can be found on To read the full review on the Eidolon.net/SF Online Reviews website please click on this link.