This 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 SaraDouglass.com.