Steven Brust,
The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars
(Ace, 1987; Orb 1996)

Like Charles de Lint's Jack of Kinrowan, The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars was originally published as part of Terri Windling's series of novel-length fairy tales rewritten for adults. Tor republished it under the Orb imprint, which means that it should remain in print as an Orb book. (Would that the rest of the series would follow!)

Greg, the narrator, is an artist who has joined with four other artists -- Dan, David, Robert and Karen -- in a studio, where they have been struggling to make names for themselves in the art world. They have all been largely unsuccessful, and they have come to a crisis point; should they call it quits and break up the studio or should they try to come up with the money for an art show? The stress takes its toll, and communications break down severely.

This is only one of the stories Steven Brust tells. Another storyline follows Greg through the process of creating a painting on a huge canvas he calls The Monster. As Greg works his way through the painting, he reflects on art and painting and what it means to him personally. Interspersed through the novel is a Hungarian folk tale, "The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars," which tells of three gypsy brothers who go on a quest to bring light to the world. Actually, only one brother does all the work, Csucskari, who is a kind of trickster-hero, but he's willing to share with his brothers.

The different narrative threads are broken into numbered sections within each chapter, and each chapter is headed with the title of a famous painting. It is not obvious whether the painting has a bearing on the text of the section, although some readers might enjoy looking them up. Greg is an engaging narrator, and his ruminations on art are fascinating. This "inner" narrative enriches the outer story, restoring balance and providing insight to the conflicts among the artists.

Brust's writing is evocative and luminous, and he paints a vivid picture with his words. His respect for the reader is clear. Cultural references date it somewhat, but that can be overlooked. This is an unusually thoughtful and thought-provoking novel which should find a home on any bookshelf.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]



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