marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

Till We Have Faces

Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

A late and magnificent work by Lewis, retelling the tale of Cupid and Psyche, from the point of view of her ugly sister.

Really ugly.  It's amazing that while the entire work contains only one physical description -- that the other of the three sisters, Redival, had lovely blond hair -- nevertheless you know how ugly Orual (sometimes Maia, which is the Greek form) is, and how pretty Redival is, and how amazingly lovely Istra (sometimes Psyche, in Greek) is.

The book is Orual's book.  To recount her complaint against the gods --she writes in the opening that she hopes it will make it to Greece, where she has heard that people will talk freely even the gods.

The story opens with Orual and Redival's mother's death, and then the King acquires the Fox, a Greek slave, to teach them, which will keep him fresh until he has a prince for him to educate.  He remarries, to a fragile little queen who would never have managed to be a wicked stepmother despite the servant who warns them of the danger, and who dies in childbirth, with a third daughter.  The king rages.  One slave stuffs the little princess away with a wetnurse.  Orual takes over to give her to a decent nurse, and starts to raise her with the Fox's help.

Years later, troubles begin.  Followed by rumors of who is responsible and what sort of human sacrifice must be made to set things right. . . .

It wends on from there.  It involves a single combat, the king falling and breaking his leg, dreams of being an ant, going back up to the Mountain, where the sacrifice was made, twice, an eagle, and much more before all the threads are wound together.
Tags: c. s. lewis, fiction reviews: historical fantasy

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