Saturday, May 16, 2020

Day 57: The strange mystery of Paula Volsky

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Go to Day 56 or Day 58.

Paula Volsky has written some of the best fantasy novels I've ever read. But she is also some kind of enigma for me. There is no writer on whose book I've spent so much time chasing them down.

I have reviewed one of her books earlier in this blog. For some (probably good) reasons she wrote those under the name of Paula Brandon, but it was common knowledge that it was her.

But even though those books were excellent, the best book from her in my eyes is "Illusion". The only chance to get it is to search in the "used books" section. It is unavailable everywhere else. I have a several decades old copy of it (unluckily only in German) and I re-read it every few years. The book is such a masterfully intertwined story. A part of the book is a retelling of the French Revolution in a fantasy world with magic. It recreates the setup of the ancien regime and let's it fall apart. The story follows Eliste vo Derrivale, a young noble provincial woman becoming part of the court, getting caught up in the revolution plus the following reign of terror, living homeless on the streets of the capital and (in the end) taking part in the revolution against the revolution. That Paula Volsky was able to combine all this (and a lot more) into a single novel that reads totally immersive and credible, is a feat that defies belief. I would rate it easily among the top 3 novels I've ever read (and the total number read is several thousands strong).

So naturally I wanted more from her. I chased down all of her books, one by one. At some point I paid more than 20$ (without shipping) for a 30+ years old paperback copy of one of her books. With a single exception (The Grand Ellipse), none of her books is available in digital format. Even with her most current books (see the link at the top for the review) there is no digital version. On Amazon some used books of her are sold at 200+$. From what I see, I am not alone with my appreciation of her writing. So there is clearly a market for books she has already written, but it is not served. I have no idea why. It would be great if I could load up her books on my ebook reader for re-reading.

Her entry on Wikipedia is very short on details and as far as I know, she has no social media presence or home page. What is written about her is short on sources. Usually I am good on finding out things and I have a black belt in Google Fu. But except one sentence in 2008 from a fellow author in a forum, I came up empty handed.

So all I can do is hope that she is doing well. I wish her all the best and silently hope that my mystery writer at some point surprises me with more books.

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