I heard that Sara Douglass passed away from cancer. I first noticed her book ‘BattleAxe’ with a highly garish cover, at the old Angus & Robertson at the top of the Queen Street Mall. (Last time I went there, that entire bookshop was gone.) Flipping through, I saw that Sara was Australian. Someone who’d written a thick, chunky fantasy novel. BattleAxe was good stuff – a strong action-line, vivid battles, and story that kept me enthralled. I haven’t re-read them since I was a teenager, but I still remember the imagery of the Icarii, the Star Dance, WolfStar’s machinations, Gorgrael’s threats and lonely rule over the icepack and the wonderful themes of magic returning to a land.
The sequel trilogy, the Wayfarer Redemption, was far different from the books that were hinted at in the closing chapters of ‘StarMan’, much like how the prequel trilogy we imagined when we saw the old Star Wars films was different to what we actually got. But I still remember the Time Keeper demons and the final fate of the land of Tencendor.
I met her at a signing at the old ‘Pages’ bookshop, where she was aghast that someone had called their child ‘DragonStar’, after the hero of the second ‘Axis’ trilogy. I asked her why she had killed off a character I had liked, who I thought had died an untimely death, and she said “Because I can.”
Sara’s strength as a writer was her ability to create powerful, vivid concepts and images in her fantasy that proudly stood out of all the fantasy mush I read as a teenager. It was just different enough to be interesting and attention-grabbing, born from an imagination that hadn’t been firmly watered in Tolkien and quest-based fantasy. My favourite book of hers would be Threshold, a dark romance set in an Egyptian-style setting – an epic story neatly contained in a single book. As I’m writing this, all the memories of the times I read these books are coming back to me, along with snapshots of the plots, and clear pictures of the characters, loved and loathed.
Sara will be missed.