SMSA: Threshold

threshold-2008-rereleaseThreshold by Sara Douglass is a prequel to her popular Darkglass Mountain series. And unlike most prequels, in my opinion, it out rates the series as a whole.

A word of warning though: there are some disturbing scenes of infanticide and domestic violence in this book, although it could be argued that these create the necessary level of horror at the wrongness of the Magi’s work and as well as emotional poignancy.

Nevertheless, this is a strong ‘unputdownable’ book.

©2012 Melanie Ryan / SMSA. To read the full review on the SMSA website please click on this link.

Guest blog: Sara Douglass returns to Tencendor and tells us why

the-serpent-bride-2nd-editionI swore years ago I would never return to Tencendor. I wept, I wailed, I’d had enough. I even blew the blasted place up so I wouldn’t have to go back. However … ten or so years later … I just sort of got curious about the concept.

Ten years had given me enough time to get over the entire Tencendor experience. I’d been very, very tired by the end of those six books. Partly it was the books themselves, partly it was because I had written them all so very quickly, and partly it was because at that stage I was extremely ill (I wrote the final three books when I was at my sickest and, looking back on them now, it shows). All in all, I was at my lowest ebb since I’d been a teenager.

Everything connected with Tencendor had been tainted.

So I walked away from it and swore I’d never return.

But these things happen. I began to think about Axis again. He’d been such a wonderful character, so heroic, so flawed, so powerful, so selfish to the point of destroying the lives of those he loved the most. I thought I had taken him as far as I possibly could in the original six books, but now … now I was beginning to wonder. What if Axis was taken out of his world and put in another? How would he react with a different set of characters? A different problem? What if, distanced from his beloved Azhure, he met another woman? How would he manage? (Of course, all those who know and love Axis know for certain that he would talk himself into another love affair just because he would think it his right.)

There was another character I’d never developed to his full potential either – Axis’ father, StarDrifter. So I began to toy about with the idea of bringing back those two characters, and into a different world, and what better world and character to meet them up with than Maximilian Persimius from Beyond the Hanging Wall? I’d never taken Maximilian as far as I wanted, as well … and before I knew it, there was Threshold beckoning too, and suddenly I found myself constructing a new series based on three of my former worlds, Tencendor, Escator and Ashdod. I’d never been very keen on doing sequels to any of these worlds individually, but doing them together – that was a challenge I could not resist. Then HarperCollins got keen, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I am having enormous fun with Axis in this series. Currently only one book is out, but book two, The Twisted Citadel, is due out shortly, and I am writing the third now, so for me the series is almost complete. In book one Axis doesn’t have as much exposure as the lead character in that book, Maximilian, but books two and three feature Axis heavily. His relationship with his father is, as always, a problem, especially as StarDrifter soon has another glorious son to occupy his affections. Axis also (how could I resist?) meets another woman. I loved Azhure in the Tencendor books, but I had no qualms about not bringing her back this time. I wanted to give Axis a fresh challenge, and what better challenge than to fall in love with a Skraeling? (Well, okay, a half Skraeling, but it is enough.) Given Axis’ history with the Skraelings (who are, of course, back in their full hateful force this time, too) this is bound to be problematic.

I’m also enjoying developing the Skraelings. I have never done much with them apart from having the silly wraiths mass about in ghastly hordes and attach themselves to the most evil lord they can find. But where did those Skraelings come from, and what is their history? In the first book you meet the Lealfast, who are half Skraeling, half Icarii. They are beautiful, magical creatures … and much of that magic appears to come from their Skraeling blood. How? What was it that the Skraelings had to bequeath them? So by book three (tentatively titled The River Angels but I am almost certain you can expect that to change), you will get the chance to really delve back into the Skraeling past … and find a few surprises.

Naturally, it is bound to upset Axis!]

Now I have become carried away — which just shows how enthusiastic I am about the new series. I am truly enjoying saddling up my horse and travelling with Axis again, and I am equally as certain that once DarkGlass Mountain is done, there will be new worlds waiting for him to explore. Axis is looking for peace, but he won’t find it in the battle for Elcho Falling.

Oh, as a final note, where in the world did the name Elcho Falling come from? I had developed the idea of this enchanted citadel rising from the past … and I had to find it a name. One evening I was browsing through a British book of photography, dating from the 1930s. One photograph was of that quintessential scene, the lazy English afternoon tea party on the lawns of the country house. The caption under the photograph named the people within, and one man was identified as the Lord of Elcho. Oh, I just fell in love with the name right there and then, and ‘falling’ just ‘fell’ in beside it (I wanted something fairly sad and evocative). Thus Elcho Falling.

Sara Douglass

For a limited time only, The Serpent Bride, and the three books of the Wayfarer Redemption trilogy – with beautiful new covers – Sinner, Pilgrim and Crusader are available each throughout Australia.

sinner-2008-edition  Pilgrim-2008-edition  crusader-2008-edition

©2008 VoyagerOnline Blog. You can read the original article and the comments here.

Kirkus Review: Threshold

threshhold-us-editionStand-alone fantasy-romance in a quasi-Egyptian setting.

Australian author Douglass (the Wayfarer Redemption series) tells the story of Tirzah, a young woman sold into slavery along with her father.

Formulaic, but Douglass brings many original touches to the telling, effectively using vivid imagery to flesh out her exotic setting: a strong romantic plot in an unusual fantasy setting.

©2003 Kirkus Reviews. To read the full review on the Kirkus Reviews website please click on this link.

On Dit: Threshold

threshold-1steditionThere’s hope for us Adelaidians yet! The woman who wrote this book is not only a Ph.D.-holding South Australian, she’s also an ex-Adelaide University student! What a legend. Sara Douglass’ new book, entitled Threshold, is a bizarre mix of magic and mathematical formula.

The setting is a world ruled by evil magi who strive to form the perfect union with the “one” (a mathematical formula equivalent to a god). The only way the magus can form this mystical connection is by building a pyramid so perfect in formula that when connected with the sun it will transport the magi into infinity and beyond (no, it has nothing to do with Buzz Lightyear). The main character is a young girl who was sold into slavery when her father accrued a few too many gambling debts. It is their skill as glass-craft workers that bring them to the building site of Threshold (aka big mathematical pyramid thing) where they are forced to produce massive sheets of plate glass to cover the entirety of the formation. From this moment on the story takes you through many a surprising doorway. The idea behind the story is awesome, the originality is refreshing and the author has managed to create a cast of characters surprising in their contrast.

The only thing I found rather unfortunate about the book is something I find disappointing in all (dare I say) ‘fantasy’ novels. It is that if a character needs a certain object or something of the like to get out of a situation, they simply magic it along. This doesn’t show a hell of a lot of imagination. The only other thing was the obligatory happy ending, slightly predictable, but with a twist that made it more interesting. The entire novel becomes connected by, believe it or not, frogs, and the author has the weird ability to endear the ugliest, foulest, slimy amphibians.

Overall I found Threshold to be great, if only because it does not give the impression of being written to a plan. It’s an excellent story, an excellent idea, and if you’re a mathematician it’s probably your ultimate fantasy. If you’re not in the mood to read any heavy statistical data, then Threshold is a great escape.

©1997 Claire Murphy / On Dit – the University of Adelaide student newspaper, April 1997. Reproduced from

Weekend Australian: Threshold

threshold-1steditionThis is the story of young Tirzah, a glassworker sold into slavery and taken to Ashdod to work for the evil Magi on constructing Threshold, a vast, glass-faced pyramid that will put them in touch with the force of creation itself. There, she and her allies learn to use the Song of the Frogs to overcome “the power of the One”, when it’s unleashed in the form of cruel Nzame with its terrible stone-men.

Douglass is an assured and gifted storyteller and Tirzah’s adventures have some interesting moments. Any shortcomings are largely those of the epic fantasy form itself, as it is so often these days – the stereotyped characters, the simplistic black and white values, the tendency to tell without showing, the use of such names as Tirzah and Ashdod to tap resonances of place, though rarely of another place. We need more than Nile crocodiles passed off as “the great white water lizards that lurked in the Lhyl”. Though who knows? Douglass may just be the local writer to do it.

©1997 Terry Dowling / the Weekend Australian, 12-13 April 1997. Reproduced from

Carringtons: Threshold

threshold-1steditionMr. Douglass, obviously writing under a nom de plume to cater for the feminist readers’ market, has produced a remarkably sensitive Oedipal fantasy. The two main characters waltz in a dance of domination and redemption. The Male protagonist, (modelled after the author?) completely dominates a young female slave (his ideal?) even to the point of removing her identity. Boaz, the Biblically named Magus, renames the slave girl Tirzah, another obscure Biblical name. We later find that Tirzah was the name of the mother of Boaz! He then beds the girl, gets her pregnant, and gives the resultant child the original name of the slave girl. Thus fulfilling the Oedipal thrust by sleeping with Tirzah, his mother-surrogate, the renamed slave.

Boaz himself is a Stevensonian Jekyll/Hyde character, at one time tame, at another terrible. He alone holds the secret to activate Threshold, a vast mirror covered pyramid that will allow mankind to cross into infinity and achieve immortality. The plot revolves around the destructive power lurking on the other side which the Magus must defeat in spiritual battle. Not a new theme, but handled well by a competent word-smith. Mr. Douglass can, however, write with great sensitivity. Some passages cause the throat to tighten and heart swell with the shared emotion coming from the page.

The intrigue behind the main plot shows some familiarity with, at least, office politics. There we find a familiar world of back-stabbing, calumny, and naked ambition in the same proportion we would find in modern academia or commerce. Whether in Ashdod, the fictional location of the story, or ancient Egypt the rivalry between religion and the rulers is well noted. The originality in Threshold lies in the author’s obvious knowledge and sensitivity to the mathematical complexities of the construction of a pyramid on a large scale as compared with smaller constructions. The stresses of balancing the available finite resources and the seemingly infinite expense in material and manpower are remarkably well developed.

Can Boaz save Ashdod? Can Tirzah save Boaz? Find out, with this compelling fantasy of power, intrigue and ultimately love.

©1997 Cliff Carrington / “Carrington’s Classical and Christian Library”, Barnard Street, Bendigo, February 1997. Reproduced from


threshold-1steditionThreshold (a single volume) is my most recent publication (February 1997) and one I’m terribly excited about. Fantasy, but completely different from The Axis Trilogy.

Threshold is middle-eastern rather than medieval … or perhaps medieval middle-eastern. Yes, that’s it. It is not a heroic fantasy in the same sense that the Axis books are, and it doesn’t follow the same fantasy formula that I used there.

It is the story of Ashdod, a land where mathematician Magi hold sway. The Magi worship the number One, as the number from which all other numbers emanate, and into which all other numbers eventually collapse. In a sense, then, the number One represents immortality – or Infinity (yes, you guessed it, I’ve based much of this on sacred Pythagorean mathematics). Several generations before the events of the book, the Magi had conceived of the perfect mathematical formula which will enable them to touch, and eventually step into, Infinity. In essence, to merge with the One.

This mathematical formula is expressed as a building, Threshold, with the Infinity Chamber at its heart. Threshold is a pyramid (unfortunate to use yet again the pyramid, but I must because of the pyramid’s mathematical properties) made of glass, and most of the prime characters, apart from the Magi themselves, are glass workers, slaves on the construction site.

Threshold is told in the first person through the eyes of one of the glass workers, Tirzah. We learn of her very peculiar relationship with the glass, and the danger this places her in with the Magi. With Tirzah, we come to the realization that there is something very seriously wrong with Threshold, and that the Magi are not able to control the ways in which the formula is warping. Eventually, Threshold transforms into something that no-one, Magus or glass worker, can control. Threshold was supposed to be a bridge, a bridge to enable the Magi to merge with Infinity and the One. Instead, something comes across the bridge from the other side … from Infinity.

The book has a touch of horror, not overdone. Very mild, in fact, considering some of the horror I’ve read recently.

The cover art is by Shaun Tan – the best of all the covers he has done for me. The original painting (hanging right behind me as I type) is stunning.

©1997 Sara Douglass