On a Pale Horse

~by Piers Anthony
1984 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
1984 Locus Award Nominee

On a Pale Horse was given to me as a gift by a friend who had been wanting me to read it for a while, who assumed by doing so that I would no longer have an excuse. I still managed to put it off for a few more months before finally getting a chance. I blame grad school.

On a Pale Horse is the first book in the Incarnations of Immortality series written by Piers Anthony. The basic premise of the series is that Death, Fate, Mother Nature, War, etc. are offices held by individuals and over time these individuals may change. In this first installment, Zane, quite accidentally, manages to off Death, and is therefore required to take the previous holder's place.

The first half or so of the book follows Zane as he attempts to adjust to his new persona and slew of responsibilities. Although each encounter with his clients is different, a definite pattern is set up and generally nothing happens that is too terribly surprising. However, the second half of the book really picks up as some interesting twists and developments are thrown into the mix. Also included at the end is an "Author's Note" which I found to be quite delightful. On a Pale Horse is definitely a light and even humorous fantasy read, even while it addresses some weighty topics.

The book is a favorite among my friends, so I was more than happy to read it. Turned out it was rather enjoyable, too. Given its somewhat mediocre beginning (albeit it wasn't bad and I did enjoy it), I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked the book and the story by the end. I absolutely love the premise, but I don't think that the magic in the world really did much for me (though it was at times quite amusing, and certainly at times necessary). While I'm not in a huge rush to read the rest of the series (I've lots of other things I need to get through first), I definitely look forward to seeing where else Anthony takes his concept.