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Mistress of Mistresses: A Vision of Zimiamvia (The Zimiamvian Trilogy #1)

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  316 ratings  ·  19 reviews
The second volume in the fantasy classic most often compared with J.R.R. Tolkien

The Worm Ouroboros was the first work from E.R. Eddison that excited deeply felt enthusiasm from figures of literary stature. THE MISTRESS OF MISTRESSES, part of "The Worm" group, has long been unavailable in any edition. James Stephenson says, "Mr. Eddison is a vast man. He needed a whole cosm
Paperback, 405 pages
Published May 1968 by Ballantine Books (first published 1935)
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Jul 06, 2012 Terry rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of weird, classic fantasy
Shelves: fantasy
Like The Worm Ouroboros _Mistress of Mistresses_ is a book that only E. R. Eddison could have written and is one that is likely to garner an even smaller following than the admittedly obscure Worm. For my part I think that this book, and its subsequent sequels that make up the Zimiamvian Trilogy, is perhaps Eddison’s best work. It may not be as approachable as the Worm (and boy is that saying something!), but I think its greater depth and scope make for what amounts to a truly impressive achieve ...more
Lessingham was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.

Lessingham, you may recall, was the English gentleman whose dream(?) provided the wafer-thin framing story to The Worm Ouroboros. You may also recall that at one point in Worm, our heroes saw, from a mountain in the distance, the fabled land of Zimiamvia, and wondered if it was, in fact, the home of the souls of the blessed.

The answer is ... complicated.

As mentioned, the book begins in England around Lessingham's deathbed;
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in April 2002.

To read Tolkien and Eddison in close succession is to realise just how much the latter is the better writer. This is his second fantasy novel, loosely connected to the first and best known, The Worm Ouroboros, and beginning a trilogy ending with the unfinished The Mezentian Gate. Although the earlier novel is better known, this is the better one and Eddison's talent clearly developed in the nine years since the publication of The Worm Ouroboros.
As a wren twinkles in and out in a hedge-row, the demurest soft shadow of laughter came and went in Lessingham’s swift grey eyes. “What, were you reading me good counsel? Forgive me, dear Amaury; I lost the thread on’t. You were talking of my cousin, and the great King, and might-a-beens; but I was fallen a-dreaming and marked you not.”

In The Worm Ouroboros Eddison used a half-framing device that many, including myself, found annoying and confusingly pointless. After reading Mistress of Mistress
Stephen Brooke
This, I think, is the best of Eddison’s novels — and I like all of them. Less of a straight-forward adventure than ‘The Worm Ouroborus,’ not as inclined to wander down odd avenues of philosophy as ‘A Fish Dinner in Memison,’ and, of course, more finished than ‘The Mezentian Gate,’ ‘Mistress of Mistresses’ pulls all the best strains of the author’s thoughts together into one narrative.

This is not to say there is not a great deal of adventure and quite a bit of philosophy to be found in the book.
Reading this book felt like being a fancy party filled with elegant and outlandish nobles who I knew only slightly and were far too dignified to explain themselves to me. I drifted through it, things overheard and only half-understood, as if in a dream that Eddison was dreaming for me, then waking up and not being able to quite put the pieces together. It's an extremely mystical book: like The Worm Ouroboros, it starts out with a heady and entrancing frame story involving Lessingham. But this ti ...more
I was fascinated last year when I read Eddison's The Worm Ourobouros, and started looking around for the rest of his work. I found a copy of Mistress of Mistresses, but found it a bit of a slog to get through compared to the quasi-masterpiece of Ourobouros.

A lot of this came down to the different language styles of the two books -- Ourobouros was written in an archaic early modern English reminiscent of Shakespeare and translations of Beowulf, while Mistress of Mistresses is in a more flowery,
Joseph Kay

This is not in fact part of the "Worm Cycle". It stands largely apart from Worm as the first volume of the Zimiamvia (I had to pause to check that) trilogy along with A Fish Dinner in Memison and the Mezentian Gate. The trilogy nominally takes place in the universe of Worm but the only links are a distant sighting of Zimiamvia from a mountaintop and the presence of Lessingham as the main character, who appeared in about ten pages of Worm.
The prose in MoM (and presumably the other two) is much ea
Dr. Andrew Higgins
I do love Eddison's high fantasy - I though this first volume of this series is not as focused as The Worm Ouroboros but stuck with it - Antiope is an interesting character drawn by Eddison from several strands of Norse and Classical mythology. The more I read Eddison the more I agree with Tolkien that Eddison's 'peculiarly bad nomenclature' (Letters, p. 377) is 'slipshod and often inept' (Letters, p. 258). But I am sure I will return to the other two volumes in this trilogy (now on Kindle) and ...more
What an unusual "ending." I thoroughly enjoyed this, although some is too cloudy to recall specifics. Late into the book, a few scenes were completely lost on me, as in I don't recall which characters were involved and what, if anything, was truly resolved.

Eddison's writing takes a great deal of concentration, but the payoff is worth it. An intricate story of political intrigues, despotism and blurred realities of worlds. For me, one of the biggest struggles was keeping the unique and irregular
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
I feel like things didn't quite come together properly at the end ... but then, this is a trilogy, so maybe things are explained in book 2. This attempts a kind of mystery, mysticism, and lyrical style that most fantasy writers rarely succeed with. Modern readers may find this to be difficult, because the style is not typical. Worth reading as something which was an influence on later writers. (I also think some but not all fantasy readers will enjoy it for its own sake.)

(Not that I got beyond the first chapter, of course, but I liked what I read. I found it delightful, actually. But I'd be lying to myself -among others- if I pretended that I've read it to the end or that I mean to. My interest in the story is not worth the hours I'd spend deciphering this man's convoluted prose. But the book, I am sure, is beautiful on the outside as well as on any sentence, and I'll hold it dear.)
Much like Eddison's other books - I started it, I liked it but never got into it, then eventually wandered on to other things. I know he is essential to the development of fantasy, but I can't get into him.
More archaic prose from the master of The Worm Ouroboros, which IS his masterpiece. Don't let this book turn you from Eddison - read the Worm!
Have tried reading this a couple of times because it's supposed to be a classic. But never got very far, it just doesn't work for me.
Elegant ultimate classical romance, without self-conscious gimmicks. As with all of his books, read them slowly and enjoy them.
Timothy Taylor
Maybe four star (but not sure): memorably weird. Lessingham and the Vicar are great characters.
(review of complete series in Zimiamvia: A Trilogy)
Sep 09, 2010 Velvetink marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
*note to self.copy from Al.
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Eric Rücker Eddison was an English civil servant and author, writing under the name "E.R. Eddison."
More about E.R. Eddison...

Other Books in the Series

The Zimiamvian Trilogy (3 books)
  • A Fish Dinner in Memison
  • The Mezentian Gate
The Worm Ouroboros A Fish Dinner in Memison The Mezentian Gate Zimiamvia: A Trilogy Styrbiorn The Strong

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