Marianne, the Magus, and the Manticore (1985) is the first Fantasy novel in the Marianne trilogy. It is set in a timeline much like our own, but containing two other small countries in the Near East. Alphenlicht was settled by Magi refugees during the third century AD after the Sassanid king persecuted them for heresy. In the nineteenth century, Russia annexed the northern third of this country and renamed it Lubovosk.
In this novel, Marianne Zahmani is an orphan whose mother had died when she was thirteen and her father the following year. She lives in an old house that she owns and attends the local university. She is receiving a stipend from her half-brother Harvey.
Harvey Zahmani is a professor of Oriental Languages and Ethnology at a school in Boston. He has been executor of Marianne's legacy from her parents since she was fourteen. Under the terms of her father's will, Marianne will not fully inherit her estate until she marries or reaches thirty years of age. Meanwhile, Harvey only lets her have $500 a month.
Makr Avehl Zahmani is the Prime Minister -- actually the High Magus -- of Alphenlicht. He has a sister -- Ellat -- and is also somewhat related to Marianne and Harvey. He often pronounces his name as Macravail.
Aghrehond is Macravail's factotum. He is butler, chauffeur, messenger and many other things.
Tabiti Delubovoska is the head of state of Lubovosk. She is also the aunt of Harvey Zahmani.
In this story, Marianne attends classes and repairs damaged books in the library. She also works on her house. She makes some extra money renting the first floor rooms to Mrs. Winesap and Mr. Larken.
One morning Marianne hears a bit of TV news about Makr Avehl Zahmani appearing before the United Nations. Then she sees a flyer about a lecture by M. A. Zahmani. She decides to attend this lecture.
Prime Minister Zahmani looks very much like Harvey, Yet Marianne can see little differences. Zahmani notices her in the crowd and talks to her after the lecture. Macravail seems much more considerate than her half-brother.
Makr takes her to a nearby restaurant and tells her some more about Alphenlicht, He also describes the religion of the country. He calls her Kinswoma and states that she is almost certainly Kevi, the dominant caste of Alphenlicht.
Later, Macravail invites Marianne to dinner and explains more about his country. She tells him something about Harvey, including the box of items he has given her to place in her rooms. He takes her home, tours the rooms and examines the hated box.
The various items have a feeling of evil surrounding them. Macravail takes them away and then brings similar -- yet more comfortable -- pieces to replace them. He even hangs the pictures.
Makr senses an evil plot directed against Marianne. Although Harvey is involved, someone else is probably the instigator. He will need to keep a close eye on Marianne.
Then Macravail invites Marianne to an outing at the estate where he is staying. She looks forward to visiting and having a chance to ride horses again. Aghrehond drives her to the estate.
Makr has also invited Harvey and his aunt. When they arrive, he realizes that Madame Delubovoska is probably the person conspiring against Marianne. He and Ellat teach Marianne some simple defenses and try to keep her away from the Madame.
This tale involves magic -- both white and black -- revolving around Marianne. She doesn't believe in magic, but she has experienced its effects. Unfortunately, she doesn't listen close enough to Macravail.
This trilogy follows after the True Game series, which is also definitely worth reading. Afterward, the author wrote many other Fantasy and SF novels, but most were standalone works.
The story is a mostly about loss of youthful innocence. The next installment is Marianne, the Madame, and the Momentary Gods. Read and enjoy!
Highly recommended for Tepper fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of magical arts, psychologically abused women, and personal development.
-Arthur W. Jordin