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Fantasy Friday – On A Pale Horse


On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony

Review by Jennifer (mywolfalways)



When Zane’s latest scheme to get money fails, he decides that it’s time to surrender early to the inevitable.  Unfortunately, his plan is interrupted by the intervention of Fate and  Zane unexpectedly finds himself inheriting the job of the Incarnation of Death.


With the help of the death steed, Mortis, and the intermittent assistance of the other Incarnations, he quickly learns his job.  The job is intimidating at first, but he quickly gets used to the simple task of retrieving balanced souls and determining whether they should go to heaven or hell.


As he learns more about how people’s souls are weighed however, he starts to have second thoughts.  Despite risking his own immortal soul to hell by breaking the rules, Zane decides to start relegating the souls to the realms he sees fit and even extending some people’s lives to give them a second chance at improving their status.


Everything seems to be going fine until Satan, the prince of evil, schedules Zane’s girlfriend for early termination.  Conflicted between his duty as death and his love for Luna, Zane makes the decision to challenge Satan.  Will the Incarnation be able to defeat the ultimate evil or will the entire world fall into Satan’s hands?


Anthony introduces an imaginative world that is a mix of fantasy, myth, and futuristic present that will satisfy a variety of palates.  While Death has his classic scythe, he has many other tools, such as a watch, balancing stones, and even a computer.  People on earth drive cars and ride magic carpets all while passing billboards advertising both magical and technological items.


While this novel can be read as just a fun fantasy read, I think many readers will find themselves challenged by Zane’s moral struggle to do his job properly versus what he thinks is right.  It’s a problem that most people experience almost every day.  Zane develops from a self-loathing character to a person who truly cares about his clients.  Many of the scenarios Zane faces with his clients are heart-wrenching and readers may consider what they would do in his place.  As they continue reading, some readers may even find themselves uncomfortable as they question their own preconceived notions of life, death, and the choices that they and others make.


I enjoyed this novel the first time I read it in High School and I enjoyed it the second time around as an adult with more life experiences to draw from.  A few years from now, I know I’ll be reading it again, just to see how my point of view has changed.

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