"Culture clashes resound through this multi-layered coming-of-age tale from fantasist Baker (The Anvil of the World). Shaped in movements like a verbal symphony, the novel follows half-demon foundling Gard from a pastoral childhood punctuated with vicious raids by the savage Riders. Gard's willingness to kill in self- defense leads to a career as gladiator and sex slave under the insatiable Lady Pirihine and his training as a powerful mage, all contrasted with and eventually tied into the Gospel-like story of the Star, a John the Baptist–like figure, and the Child, a young girl who becomes a saint. Somehow this unusual and mostly charming mélange of basic fantasy motifs, fair and feral landscapes, and ironic characterizations ranging from gentle to raucous all comes together harmoniously, like extended variations on the theme that achieving adulthood is not for fainthearted sissies."-- Publisher's Weekly

"Returning to the fantasy world of The Anvil of the World , the author of the popular series about the Company (e.g., The Sons of Heaven ) demonstrates her gift for epic storytelling on a compact scale, grand in scope yet touched with small moments of wry humor. Gard's journey from monster to man encompasses every person's struggle to be human and to reconcile the light and dark within himself. Highly recommended for most libraries."-- Library Journal

"Baker's fantasy is completely different from her science fiction, but it's just as good. Gently humorous and ironic, Gard is a character readers will pull for as he moves from foundling to outcast to slave to ruler. Baker's worldbuilding is consistently top-notch, and the various supporting characters are just as well drawn as her antihero."-- Romantic Times Book Review

""For lovers of thoughtful fantasy, there is rarely a better book than this."-- Librarything.com

S et in the same universe as The Anvil of the World, this is the story of Gard, a foundling raised by an innocent forest people. Their innocence is lost fairly soon, when invaders settle in their quiet valley and enslave them. Gard and his adoptive family take refuge in the hills, as a holy man rises to counsel peaceful resistance. Gard, however, begins a one-man guerrilla campaign that ends with his expulsion from his family and his world. Entirely unconscious of cliches, he sets out on the Hero's Journey.

T he role of Hero doesn't come easily to Gard, however. He progresses from slave to gladiator to sorcerer, and escapes from being sacrificed only by double-crossing his masters. He does time as an actor with a penniless troupe and serves as a mercenary in the army of an unlucky duke, both of which experiences teach him that the Villain is the one who gets respect. Being a sensible man, Gard promptly acquires a suit of black armor, a demon army, and an impregnable fortress with skull-shaped turrets. He thenceforth enjoys an improved standard of living.

M eanwhile, back in the quiet valley, years of peaceful resistance finally pay off and a Promised Child is born, enabling the holy man to lead his people out of the valley to freedom. The Promised Child grows up, however, and she discovers that being a living Saint with the genuine ability to heal the sick and raise the dead does not necessarily guarantee personal fulfillment-- rather the reverse. Undeterred, she continues to minister to her thankless people... and then one day her path crosses Gard's.

A ll in all, The House of the Stag is about the masks we assign to Heroes and Villains, about the way we tell stories and what we expect of the characters in them. Can a Dark Lord and a Saint find happiness together? What do they tell their children? Where do they go when they want to take a holiday? What happens when an impregnable fortress's plumbing backs up?

T his book has been in the works since approximately 1964, and has been revised and reimagined many times. Episodes from it have been told in blank verse, as an illuminated manuscript, and a failed first novel. It is neither prequel, sequel nor the beginning of a multi-book story arc. You can read it without getting hand cramps, because it isn't four inches thick. Nevertheless, it has battles, demons, monsters, sex, comedy, tragedy, birth, death, disillusionment, faith, magic. Something, I hope, for everyone.



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