Tanith Lee first appeared in the fantasy genre in 1975, when Ballantine publishers noticed that the market was glutted with imitations of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work and retellings of familiar legends. They solved the problem by introducing new authors with new stories. Other publishers followed this trend. Since her well-timed arrival, Lee has produced a huge body of work, beginning with the Birthgrave Trilogy (1975-1978).
The Blood of Roses examines a number of issues. On the surface, it is a simple revenge story. A disadvantaged and despised youth leaves home and eventually returns, exacting revenge on his tormentors. This type of story has ancient roots. An example is Euripedes’ Electra (c. 413 b.c.e.). Lee’s novel departs from the typical revenge tale in several ways. Although Mechail kills his tormentors, he himself is killed beforehand. It is only Anjelen’s influence that permits Mechail to rise and avenge himself. Then Mechail’s vengeance is complete. He gains his rightful inheritance, but only after his original body is exchanged for a new one. Furthermore, Mechail must drink human blood to survive. Anjelen’s blessing is also a curse.
In the character of Anjelen, Lee presents an interesting paradox. He comes from a pagan background but fits easily into the Christian world. He is both the forest god and Christ. Like Christ, Anjelen is sacrificed on a tree and rises from the dead...
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