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The Grand Ellipse

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  298 ratings  ·  25 reviews
In the civilized republic of Vonahr, magic is the only hope in the battle against an imperialistic race of fanatics. But salvation lies in a neutral kingdom where the ultimate weapon has been created. Sentient Fire is a flame that obeys its creator. Adventurer Luzelle Devaire is sent to the kingdom to convince the king to release the fire, but to gain an audience, she must ...more
Paperback, 672 pages
Published October 30th 2001 by Spectra Books (first published October 2000)
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Around the World in Eighty Days & Five Weeks in a Balloon by Jules VerneThe Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du BoisThe Affinity Bridge by George MannFive Weeks In A Balloon by Jules VerneAirborn by Kenneth Oppel
Balloons on the cover
13th out of 50 books — 17 voters
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. RowlingAngels & Demons by Dan BrownA Storm of Swords by George R.R. MartinThe Amber Spyglass by Philip PullmanThe Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
Best Books of 2000
100th out of 297 books — 138 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 640)
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Tamara
Well, this is an odd one. Mostly it's a rather good, light, very readable steampunk romp with a likeable heroine with conveniently 21st century sensibilities. The main flaw in this respect is that while theres a certain lip service paid to the Evils of Colonialism, with lots of suffering downtrodden natives and so on, all the actual non-psuedo-european characters who appear are firmly meesteerious easterners or savage southerners.

But then theres the political subplot. While the main story is lot
...more
Jenn
Teaser: As two countries are on the brink of war, a great race, across several lands and seas, is being held. The prize is extremely valuable; the winner gets an audience with the king of the 'outcast' country.

A strong-willed anthropologist (a profession and attitude that sickens her traditional parents) gets approached to compete in the race. Her audience with the outcast King is crucial to prevent the impeding war. She has an undeniable thirst for adventure and reluctantly agrees to participat
...more
Earl Solper
Jul 03, 2011 Earl Solper rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who play fantasy RPGs
The Grand Ellipse asks (and seeks to answer) the questions:
1. Is Colonialism evil?
2. Should women be equal citizens?
3. Can individual citizens of a country with a wicked foreign policy be good?

If you answered "maybe" or "no" to any of these questions, I recommend:
1. Reading Heart of Darkness
2. Talking to your mother or sister
3. Reading the history of your own country

because although The Grand Ellipse answers these questions affirmatively, it does so in such an overt and heavy-handed manner that
...more
Michael
Jul 05, 2008 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who has traveled a bit
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
I don't know of another fantasy writer like Paula Volsky. Her books are set in the same loosely connected world, which is much like ours in the late 18th and early 19th century. This story takes place about 100 years after the events depicted in Illusion.

The protagonist is a very interesting young woman who reminds me a great deal of Gertrude Bell. The Grand Ellipse is a race in a grand ellipse around the world, and Luzelle is one of the contestants. She is impulsive, bright, determined, and una
...more
Jared
This book reminds me rather strongly of a couple of movies: The Great Race, and the more recent version of Around the World in 80 Days. Like those two movies (I haven't read the book version of Around the World in 80 Days, so I can't comment on that), there's essentially a race to get around the world.

The impelling reason for the race is a little thin, but the characters are fun. There are a few parts that are more gruesome than I would like. I may read it again sometime.
Emily Snyder
Probably the second most complete of Ms. Volsky's books and well worth the wait, since we get to see more of Volsky's impressive world than ever before. Her attention to detail, even down to how fantasy characters deal with a multiplicity of languages, makes the book a must-read for fantasy aficionados as well as anyone who likes a good romping adventure! Unfortunately, this book is - at present - also her last. A shame since Ms. Volsky's work is incomprable to any other.
Kami
Really cool book. It takes the victorian era of our world and adds magic to it. It's basically a quest novel where you know that no matter what, the main girl is gonna win and get her guy, which still only manages to dampen the novels spark a little bit. The writing is all there, the characters are awesome, and while it does read as a re-make of Around the World in 80 Days, it still holds its own plot-wise. I'd recommend this to most any voracious reader.
Ethan
I really enjoyed the strong female character in the book and the fascinating world. I admired Volsky's chracterization--her characters are likeable, memorable, and interesting, and nobody's perfect. The pacing is good, with plenty of twists and turns. All in all a great read.
Jim Skinner
It reads like a Victorian version of the Amazing Race. Steamships, balloons, gliders, and a liberal spoonful of the arcane. Fun read, well written.

The heroine has several romantic entanglements, so if you like romance novels this will appeal to you.

Wealhtheow
Adventuress seeks to save her country from invasion. To do this, she needs the secret of Sentient Fire--and to get that, she needs to win the Grand Ellipse. This story is basically Around the World in 80 Days in an alternate WWII-era Europe.
Jill
Nice light read, highly reminiscent of Around the World in 80 Days. There is a message, but Volsky is smart enough not to whack the reader over the head with it. (Might be considered steampunk by some.)
John
This book takes Around the World in 80 days and turns it into a race not only to see who can complete the Grade Ellipse first, but also to see if anyone can stop a brutal empire is on the road to enslaving the world.

While the point of view shifts between characters, Luzelle Devaire, adventureress in a mock Victorian world is the heroine. Volsky does a fantastic job of showing us a woman in a man's world who will just not give up. If she wins, she has a shot at saving her country and is guarantee
...more
CJ
This was an amazingly fun read, and it spurred me to get back into writing adventure fantasy and not the psychological stuff I was writing. It's heavily influenced by Jules Verne and the turn of the century adventure writers, but there is a definite modern sensibility to it as well.
Milli Linnea
What can I say about this book? I loved parts of it, for instance the setting - this world is fantastic. Some of the characters were great. I was so disappointed when some of them were just dumped along the way, or died. The heroine is a naive, selfish and not very smart woman. As you might be able to tell I don't like her very much, and that's a major drawback. The plot was disappointing too. The race - The Grand Ellipse from the title - was fascinating. It took the characters around the world, ...more
Rif Saurous
Around the World in 80 Days in a world with a little magic. Oh, also a thinly veiled World War II ally. The main character is a dashing female adventurer in an age when women aren't really supposed to travel alone. Unfortunately, she's fairly irritating and not very bright. There's a bit of an interesting love triangle between her, the one good Grewzian [errr... German] who realizes his country's dreams of conquest are wrong, and the aristocrat she was formerly engaged with but left because she ...more
John Onoda
An enjoyable read, but not a stand out, in my opinion. The heroine is a feisty woman who enters a grand around the world in 80 days -type race through an exotic and quirkly area reminiscent of the sort of thing Jack Vance would cook up. If you ever saw the movie The Great Race (with Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood), you'll get a sense of the vibe of this book.

The story is dense with character and events, a bit too much for me, I fear. This is actually a pretty straightforward story, pumped up to 65
...more
Tracey, librarian on strike
The Grand Ellipse is the tale of a pseudo-19th century international balloon race, which had a strong flavor of Jules Verne, blending strangely with the fantasy elements. It was good… ish. Didn't hate it, but didn’t love it; didn’t love the characters, though they were more interesting than in many VLFN's; thought the attempt at light Regency-esque froth was a little forced. Not her best.
Isana
May 03, 2013 Isana rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who like made up worlds and don't require an amazing story
It was indeed an entertaining read. It started a bit slow and went slowly but after a while, it was interesting enough that I didn't mind. It was a bit ridiculous and predictable as far as the parallels to today's world which make me roll my eyes because it means that nothing truly compelling occurred. I stand by that it was entertaining and for that I thank Paula Volsky.
Emily Kauffman
Far better than The Wolf of Winter and almost as good as illusion.
Anna-Lisa
Jun 07, 2010 Anna-Lisa rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Anna-Lisa by: lovelylilain@yahoo.de
Shelves: steampunk
I stopped reading it after two chapters. I can't read this. Maybe it mostly is the German translation but the language is so damn bad and the world which is created by the author is so uninteresting for me.

It's a pity because I was so looking forward reading this book.
Mary
The plot is like a fantasy version of The Amazing Race. I liked the story and there were parts of the book that I liked, but between the obnoxious dialogue and the author's tendency to constantly state what the characters are thinking, the book just became annoying to read.
Anthony Faber
Pretty amusing fantasy. It's set in a world that's has late 19th century tech plus magic. Well written and no glaring implausibilities.

Patrick
An interesting plot and original story couldn't save the cumbersome prose and drawn-out scenes.
Arwen
Sep 17, 2009 Arwen rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fantasy Lovers
Shelves: three-star
This book reminds me a bit of The Great Race set in a fantasy world.
Maddison Dru
Mar 29, 2010 Maddison Dru marked it as to-read
I intended to eventually finish this. I've been trying for two years.
Tosha
Tosha marked it as to-read
Nov 16, 2014
Aaron Jones
Aaron Jones marked it as to-read
Nov 14, 2014
Robert Quigley
Robert Quigley marked it as to-read
Nov 03, 2014
Autumn Hanna
Autumn Hanna marked it as to-read
Nov 03, 2014
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Paula Volsky is an American fantasy author. Born in Fanwood, New Jersey, she majored in English literature at liberal arts college Vassar in New York State. At the University of Birmingham, England, she received an M.A. in Shakespearian studies. Before writing fantasy, she sold real estate and also worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Illusion, The Wolf of Winter, The Ga
...more
More about Paula Volsky...
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