Book Review 2007 #48-49: The Green Pearl and Madouc

The Green Pearl and Madouc are a pair of Jack Vance novels, that with Suldrun’s Garden, complete the Lyonesse Trilogy.

More High Fantasy from Vance in an imaginary land existing into dark age times, with magic, intrigue and mayhem.
Both novels continue where Suldrun’s Garden leaves off, showing the machinations of King Casmir and his attempts to become the one King of the Lyonesse islands. Throw in Aillas, King of Troicinet, who is his primary opposition, Dhrun, Aillas’ son with Suldrun (unbeknowst to Casmir), and Madouc, the changeling who poses as Casmir’s daughter, and you have the political and intrigue side of the novels.
And then throw in the conflicts between wizards, from the witch Desmei to Tamurello, and Shimrod with his patron, Murgen, and you begin to see that these novels are all about layers of stories all interacting with each other. The Green Pearl hooks the characters and plots together by means of the titular baneful magical artifact. Madouc brings Casmir’s false daughter front and center as a character whose quest to find her *real* parentage helps drive events.
All of the virtues of Vance are here, and few of the defects. We get strange locales, wonderful use of language, and an unfailing sense of action and adventure.
Vance is not known for extremely nuanced characters, and his female characters can be lacking. Madouc is the exception that proves the rule–a strong, active female character. Other characters, too, are stronger than is usual from Vance.
It is little wonder that Madouc won the World Fantasy Award, and is an excellent capstone to a major work in Vance’s canon. As usual, I insist that you won’t want to start here (start with Suldrun’s Garden). However, readers of that work will find much to love in The Green Pearl and Madouc.