Jeremy Preacher's Reviews > For Love of Evil

For Love of Evil by Piers Anthony
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's review
Jun 28, 12

bookshelves: fantasy

There was a fashion in the late 80s for fantasy authors, especially those published by Lester Del Ray, to write novels that recapped the series up til that point from the perspective of a different character. These days I find it a cynically commercial practice at best, but I was a total sucker for them when I was a kid. Rereading For Love of Evil, I find... I kind of still am.

The first two thirds of the book is original material about Parry, a 13th century sorcerer who does the Pygmalion thing on a peasant girl to get himself a perfect wife and loses her to the Albigensian crusade (in a scene, incidentally, that puzzled me for years with its offhand description of rape-ready bondage. I still don't think it would work as described.) He then becomes a monk, founds the Inquisition, foils Lucifer a number of times, and then falls to temptation in the form of first his ghostly wife in a willing and nubile body, and then the demoness Lilith. And then he defeats Lucifer and in doing so becomes his successor, Satan.

So. That happens. It's actually the least appallingly sexist book of the three I've reread, despite the ridiculous amount of sex. Partly this is because the time period makes things like arranged marriages marginally more palatable, partly because to make Parry ultimately sympathetic, he has to be an extra-good guy, and partly because the foes are the medieval Catholic church and/or Inquisition, against whom almost everyone looks liberal.

The last third of the book is the aforementioned recap section, where Parry describes his conflicts with the other Incarnations from his point of view. This is handy because the ones he focuses on are Fate and Nature, which always saved me from reading Anthony's unbearable attempts to write female protagonists. This section is chock-full of male-gaze ick, but Parry remains a sympathetic character as he struggles to understand his role as the devil while still being a fundamentally good, compassionate person. (In a series of minor scenes, he befriends the god of the Jews and arranges for the Holocaust to unhappen.) He also approaches God (the prime Incarnation of Good, the Christian god, which is finally justified by explaining that He has the most followers) and discovers that he is locked in narcissistic contemplation and basically out of action. This sets up the final book in the series...

...Which I am not reading. It contains, as I recall, a new female protagonist, Parry's ghostly ex-wife, and an urban prostitute of color. It goes about as well as you'd expect it to.

Really, this is the only book in the series that holds up at all. I'm not sure why it does, to be honest. Despite my crack about Del Rey above, the last two books in the series were published by Avon - perhaps the new editor filtered out the worst of it. It's still not really worth keeping around, but I am somewhat relieved that my 12-year-old self wasn't a complete moron.

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