On A Pale Horse

I recently talked about the Xanth series by Piers Anthony when I posted my review for A Spell for Chameleon.  While the only books by Anthony that I’d read were the Xanth books, he’s published something like 140 different novels (including at least one novel that starts with every letter of the alphabet, which is definitely an unusual accomplishment).  After I finished The Color of Magic I was talking to one of the guys I bowl with and he agreed with me that he’d rather read Piers Anthony than Terry Pratchett, and he mentioned this book, which I’d seen quite a few times in stores and I finally decided to buy it.

Book Stats

303 pages

Fantasy/Science Fiction

First book in the Incarnations of Immortality series


The main character in this book is Zane, a young man who has more than his fair share of problems in his life, he’s broke, has no real prospects for his life getting better, and has a lot of shame for things that he’s done in his life.  Ultimately he decides that the best thing for him to do would be to end his life.  Just as he’s about to shoot himself, someone walks into the room, surprised as seeing someone else, Zane reacts and shoots the intruder, and then is quickly told that he has just killed Death.

Zane as a character doesn’t really have a whole lot going for him, he really is more of a vehicle for introducing the world (which has 8 novels in it) and discussing a lot of ideas about the nature of death and compassion.


This book is a large part of the reason that Science Fiction and Fantasy share the same bookshelf space in most bookstores.  The book is set in a near future where both science and magic have advanced in almost equal strides.  Hence you end up with competing ads for planes and flying carpets, each expressing the high points for their own and the problems with their competitors.  It’s a really unique setting, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite like it in books before.


Much like the unique setting, the plot for this book is very different from what I’m used to seeing.  The plot begins with Zane killing Death and then assuming the role of Death, from here there are several different plots that the book deals with.  From Zane meeting a powerful wizard who has set some strange events in motion, to Zane meeting the rest of the Incarnations of Immortality (the five are Death, Time, Fate, War, and Nature), to trying to avert a plan created by Satan to bring chaos and evil to the world, there’s a lot going on in this book.


The plotting in this book is something that could easily be studied on a high level to see exactly how everything fits together.  There are constantly two or three major plots that are running at the same time throughout the book.  Anthony does an excellent job of introducing the threads to later plot points while you’re still focused on what he’s currently dealing with.  It’s very well done, and it works to keep a constant pace throughout the entire novel.  I did have some issues with the resolution of some of the later plot points in the book, but overall it was a strong introduction to a series and I’m looking forward to the rest of the books in the series.

Overall Grade

A very interesting world with an intricate plot that kind of unravelled for me at the end, but it’s still an interesting read.


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1 Comment

  1. September 2012 Month in Review « Reviews and Ramblings

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