Elizabeth Hand's Mortal Love is the story of a dangerous and beautiful muse and the men she alternately inspires and damages. Hand, whose previous books include Black Light and the Tiptree winner Waking the Moon, tells her captivating story in three linked narratives: first, there is 19th-century American painter Radborne Comstock's encounter with a mysterious woman; next comes Radborne's grandson, Valentine, who is driven mad after seeing Radborne's paintings; and finally we meet Daniel Rowland, an American writer who takes a sabbatical in present-day London. Rowland is somewhat lost in life and is looking for something that will engage him and move his magazine-writing career up to the next level. He has decided to write a book about the ongoing relevance of the legend of Tristan and Iseult. It is Rowland whose explorations link the three men's stories and give him an idea of who or what has been leading them all down the path to love and madness.
Hand explores the links between art and artists, the search for artistic inspiration and the urge to create, and touches on the popular theory of the connection between artistic temperaments and madness. In Mortal Love, she has given her readers a lushly written treat that is also that rarest of things, a thought-provoking literary page-turner that will please historical fiction fans as much as fantasy readers.
Gavin J. Grant writes from Northampton, Massachusetts.