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Incarnations of Immortality #3

With a Tangled Skein

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When the man Niobe loved was shot, she learned that she had been the target, in a devious plot of the Devil's.

Hoping for revenge, Niobe accepted a position as one of the three Aspects of Fate, only to find that Satan's plots were tangled into the very Tapestry of Fate. Now the Evil One was laying a trap to ruin Niobe's granddaughter Luna, who threatened his plans—and he had tricked her son into Hell.

Niobe's only chance to save her son and Luna was to accept a challenge by the Prince of Deceit—a challenge to be decided in Hell and in a maze of Satan's devising.

405 pages, Paperback

First published September 12, 1985

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About the author

Piers Anthony

582 books3,979 followers
Though he spent the first four years of his life in England, Piers never returned to live in his country of birth after moving to Spain and immigrated to America at age six. After graduating with a B.A. from Goddard College, he married one of his fellow students and and spent fifteen years in an assortment of professions before he began writing fiction full-time.

Piers is a self-proclaimed environmentalist and lives on a tree farm in Florida with his wife. They have two grown daughters.

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5 stars
7,102 (34%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 342 reviews
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
December 14, 2011
Reading Piers Anthony can be a bit of a bumpy ride.
His books usually feature some minor detours into ploddyville and at least one horrible sightseeing escapade through skeevytown that leaves you feeling soiled and very uncomfortable.

So I grant you that there is definitely potential for some boring and the genuine risk of UGH in a Piers Anthony tale.

However, for all the literary potholes and ICKness he pours into his stories, this pervy old man is also a creative GENIUS who can occasionally spin threads of pure awesome that make the overall journey worth taking.

Speaking of pure, creative genius, can you say rocket-powered barcalounger...


Anthony is first and foremost an idea guy and The sf/fantasy concepts swimming around this story (and the series as a whole) rate extremely high on the mind-blowing scale. However, just like shopping for those great flat screen TV “deals” on Black Friday, the path to get to the good stuff can be cluttered, uncomfortable and quite a chore.

Stick with it and I think you will be pleased with the result.

The stark contrast between this book’s good and bad elements has left me rather schizoid. I feel like Sybil off her meds trying to keep all the different voices/viewpoints straight in my head. I figure the best thing to do is to let each voice speak their piece and we can work out the math at the end... I will however tone down, for the most part, the really irate voice who just wants to bitchslap Piers Anthony for his predilection to delve into skeevy, sexual topics rather than keeping focus on his impressive ideas.

Voice #1 thinks the story was fairly well written and had some engaging, plucky characters that were, on average, fun to hang out with for a few hours. He thinks the book is just fine and worth a read, but not much more.

Voice #2 thinks the world-building and sf/fantasy elements are sensational. The concept of the universe being run/ordered by seven “Incarnations” of Reality (i.e. Death, Time, Fate, War, Nature, Evil and Good) is cleverly done and Anthony's descriptions are excellent. Anthony is well deserving of propers for his prodigious imagination.

Even more interesting than the fact of the Incarnations, is the idea that, except for the permanent representatives of Evil (Satan) and Good (God), the other five posts are filled by mortals who must assume and grow into the traits and powers of the office they hold. Again, well thought out creativity is Anthony's strong suit and he is on his game here.


Voice #3 (kind of a gusher) was blown away by one particular idea in the story and thinks a 5 star rating is deserved based on it alone. This exceptionally compelling piece of concept creation occurred during a conversation between Satan and the main character, Niobe, who assumed the role of the Incarnation of Fate at the beginning of the story. Satan, for his own purposes, describes to Niobe “how the universe works” and why her job of taking the "substance of chaos" and weaving it into the “tapestry of Fate” is so critical to the order of things.

During this conversation, Satan explains that the "purpose" of life is to take chaos material (which contains good, evil and neutral aspects) and run it through the "filter" of "animated free will" (i.e., life). This allows the chaos to be sorted into either "good" or "evil." Once all of the chaos has been sorted, life as a universal label maker will no longer be necessary and existence will end. God and Satan will then tally up their respective points and the final victor in the big game will be decided.

This whole discussion is jaw-droppingly brilliant and a fantastic piece of writing. The description of life as a 3D game board is captivating and this worldview is going to stick to my brain for some time. When Anthony is in his groove, he can really make the story sing.

Unfortunately, not every voice in my noggin is singing Anthony’s praises. Voice #4, a deep, loud and nasty baritone voice, thinks large portions of the book blows chunks of bland tasting meh-cakes dipped in boring sauce and served with an uncomfortable garnish of skeevy. At best, some of the male/female interactions are eye-rollingly stereotypical and will make you cringe. At worst, they're lecherous to downright misogynistic and will make you feel soiled.

Having read a number of Anthony’s books, I’ve come expect that I will need to slog through some cringe-worthy crap to find the pearls of awesome. Each time I just hope that the gems are worth it. Fortunately, in his case, the positive outweighed the negative (3 voices to 1 if you are keeping score at home).

Overall, I would call it a decent to good book with excellent world-building and flashes of genius that make reading the book worthwhile.

3.0 stars. Recommended
53 reviews13 followers
March 13, 2012
I picked up this book in part because I'd heard a lot of good things about Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series and in part because it revolved around one of my favourite mythological trios, the three Fates. On both counts I was disappointed.

Misogyny and racefail abound. The Fates, while ostensibly powerful and influential beings, are expected to fulfil 'traditional' female roles: Atropos, the Crone, must perform "grandmotherly functions", while Mother-archetype Lachesis does the household chores. And the Maiden, Clotho? Well, she's expected to sexually service male immortals when the need arises. Seriously.

The reasoning behind the latter is that sometimes male immortals get romantically involved with mortal women, which causes bad things to happen, and apparently the only way of dissuading them from continuing these relationships and causing Armageddon is to distract them with some immortal loving. Piers Anthony apparently thinks that all men are helpless in the face of their lusts and sexual urges, an argument which he has also used to justify some sickening rape apologism.

All female characters whiney, one-dimensional and atrociously stereotyped - overly emotional, irrational creatures who need the grounding presence of a strong male figure in their lives to function properly.

Particularly facepalm-inducing is the Japanese Clotho, who runs away from her strict family to avoid an arranged marriage; her notoriously fiery temper then leads her into a feud with a horrible caricature of an Asian martial artist (called, would you believe it, Samurai) who assumes upon meeting her that she's a geisha. And I paraphrase:

Him: "Sorry, I thought you were Japanese."
Her: "I am Japanese! But I am LIBERATED! I ran away from my family because I would not follow their medieval ways!"
Him: "But the medieval ways are good ways!"

(Apparently Piers Anthony thinks 1980s Japan = medieval.)

Her: "Whatever, sorry for attacking you."

So then there's this bullshit fight scene wherein Clotho realises she'll either have to kill Samurai or yield. But she's inexplicably fallen in love with him, oh noes!

Him: "Say what?"
Her: "I'm sorry, I wanted to be liberated, but your manliness has overcome me!"
Him: "Meh, liberation has its place when it is understood. Now, you were saying something about sexytiems?"

But even these two are surpassed in annoyingness by the lead character, Niobe; allegedly a sharp and resourceful woman, but consistently portrayed as whiney, irrational and unintelligent, needing the help of her husbands to solve the simplest of brain teasers. I particularly enjoyed her bargaining strategy when it came to rescuing her husband from death:

"Bring him back! I love him!"
"I can't."
"But I love him!"
"No, you don't understand, I really can't."
"But I love him!"
"You would have to die instead."
"But I love him!"
"Which would prevent a series of events needed to forestall the apocalypse."
"But I love him!"
"Seriously, it would basically tear apart the fabric of reality."

...and this is supposed to be the wily, clever woman who outwits Satan. Seriously.

(Satan? And don't even let me get started on that mess. He, too, reads like a caricature, tossing around pick-up lines that are so cheesy it hurts.)

There are some interesting concepts involved, but they're overshadowed by poor execution, lousy writing, irritating characters and grating sexism, rendering what would have been a middling sci-fi novel laughably bad.
Profile Image for Jana.
40 reviews
October 16, 2011
This is really a review for the entire series, or at least the first three novels. It's been awhile because I read these books 20 years ago, but I believe it was the third book, With a Tangled Skein, that I closed the book and vowed never to read another book by Piers Anthony again. I have no idea if he's a misogynist. Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. But he certainly writes like one.

Not only is it offensive that the few female gods he has have to service sexually the male gods - bad enough! I mean, even his goddesses have to debase themselves for the males!

But in this novel I came across a scene that was so offensive to me I closed the book at that very moment and couldn't read further - and this was at a time where I finished anything I started reading, in fact, I felt obligated to. But not this time. The scene is where one of the goddesses comes across a very backward town of people who were ready to stone a young woman for polluting their water supply. Just how did she pollute their water supply? By merely walking over it, that's how. Having her vagina hovering over the water for however long in took her to step over the stream was enough to pollute the water for the entire town. I was already bristling inside as I read this scene, but as the goddess had observed, these were a backward people, and she would indulge them by "purifying" the water for them and thus sparing the young girl's life in the process. Well, then to my utter disgust, as she does this little ritual, Piers Anthony writes that the goddess actually felt the impurity being removed from the water. In other words, the water had been contaminated by the young girl merely walking above it. That. Was. It! I closed the book at that very moment.

I don't care if he writes anything else great or whatnot. That was just so offensive I never will get past it. I think one star is too much.
Profile Image for Iggy D..
30 reviews5 followers
July 9, 2010
Yeah. It was okay.
I keep reading these 'cause I'm fascinated by the plot and I keep hoping that the characters will get better. They don't. They're really flat and unbelievable. There are several points where Piers gets feminine sexuality just plain wrong (see the part where the main character is about to get raped by a demon and says that only emotional harm would come of it *rolleyes*). I know the incredibly cliche female fantasy character should make me angry, but she's so pathetic I just can't work up a good rage about her. I doubt I'll read the next on in this series, but I was really looking forward to For Love of Evil. Oh, well, knowing this series, he's just a nice guy who has a job to do in a boring, hero-y sort of way. *sigh*
Profile Image for Marian Hartman.
201 reviews15 followers
March 29, 2009
A Pale Horse (Death) will probably always have a soft spot in my love of this series simply because it was my introduction to it, but With a Tangled Skein will climb on top with my favourite read so far. There were absolutely no lulls in the book, as you are captured with each chapter and driven to read the next one. The connections between A Pale Horse and With a Tangled Skein are very familial with the Magician and Luna being woven into son and granddaughter of Niobe, who took her turns with BOTH Clotho and Lachesis. It seems like you would want to read With a Tangled Skein before A Pale Horse given the background introduction of the family, but I recommend reading them in the correct order for purposes of intrigue and connection. Anthony does such a tremendous job with the high level machinations and political agendas of the Incarnations, yet also presents the human instinct, mistakes and emotions of the Incarnations at the same time.
Profile Image for Carrie.
330 reviews22 followers
May 25, 2009
I read a few others from this series as a teenager. The series deals with the personages of death, time, fate, nature, evil, etc. "With a Tangled Skein" is about fate, who is actually three people in one--Clotho, the young attribute who gathers threads of life from the void, Lachysis, the middle-aged one who arranges them on the tapestry of life, and Atropos, the old one who cuts the threads.

Niobe Kaftan starts out as a mortal woman who becomes Clotho, then becomes mortal again for a while and then becomes Lachysis. The world is a magical version of Earth, with flying carpets and cars. There are also tons of logic problems, typical of Piers Anthony novels.

The plot is mostly how Niobe's life takes its course and how she and her family are destined to cause trouble for Satan's plans in politics 20 years hence.

I was really surprised by the number of rape scenes in the book. I think there were three scenes where rape of a character almost happened. There was also one part where characters feared being raped although it wasn't imminent, and another reference to a character being raped before she was introduced. Kinda preoccupied, Piers? It was also disturbing to me that the most feminist character, an Asian girl who had broken away from her family's traditions, ends up volunteering her virginity to appease a macho warrior who is enraged at her for beating him in front of people (why did she beat him? because he mistook her for a geisha). And she becomes smitten with him. Please!
Profile Image for Diana.
1,525 reviews85 followers
August 7, 2018
Re-read 2018

The first of the books about the female Incarnations, this one deals with Fate in all of her aspects. I can't say much about it because there are spoilers for both the earlier books and future books in the series. My only issue is that the main character sees herself as a delicate female even after assuming part of the aspect of fate. She just can't see just how tough and capable she is even when doing some bad a** things.
Profile Image for Anastaciaknits.
Author 3 books41 followers
November 4, 2016
I've read this book a few times over the years, and I'll state the same thing at the beginning of reviewing all the I of I books: this is a re-read, and the first time reviewing the books. I'm reviewing all of the books after I finished re-reading the entire series, which I don't normally do & didn't do deliberately this time, either...

So I always liked this one in the series. Niobe is pretty cool. She's written as a character that is supposed to be a little dumb, but I don't find her really that dumb (though she does have a few moments where she's a bit slow, but we all have those moments). Her story line is one of the more interesting ones to me out of the interesting story, and she's probably the character I like second most out of everyone (I really like Orb).

Every time I read the book, I'm a bit fascinated by the whole three people/souls in one body bit, and how the whole thing works. Yes, I realize that's the smallest part of the plot, but it just always fascinated me.

As a knitter, spinner, and weaver, it also fascinated me that Fate uses similar elements to tie together all of humanity.

That being said, Piers Anthony is a dirty old man and loves his sex, and paints women in general as nothing but beautiful sex slaves. Ugh. The man's a genius with his ideas, but it takes him forever to get there as he's too busy talking about sex, and his writing is sub-par.

Profile Image for Joan.
2,030 reviews
January 25, 2023
Probably more of a 4.5 star title, since I do not consider it quite as good as On a Pale Horse. This is about the Incarnation of Fate, Niobe. It is an important book in the series since it begins to draw together how one family is peculiarly important to the Incarnations. Niobe claims to be nobody special, but special things keep happening to her mostly because she won't give up on her goals. Her main ones are to protect her family and pay Satan back. Read and see if she succeeds. Music is beginning to assume an importance in the series that can be explained by the introspective author's note at the end of the story itself. I highly enjoyed this title, but I'm not saying more because 1) I don't want to give anything more away and 2) I am really busy today and shouldn't have taken time to write this!Addendum 12/2019: having raised the last book to three stars, I’m going to do something similar but opposite here. I would now consider this more of a 4 star rather than 4.5 star title. The final scene of essentially participating in a video game was dragged on too long and was a bit tedious in explaining the various choices. Also the final choice was rather unnecessary since Niobe had by then figured all the possible solutions and which was most likely the winner. I’ll admit freely that perhaps some of this comes from my poor ability to perceive the intellectual puzzles presented in the final games. This still likely is one of my second top favorites in the series.
Profile Image for Sarah Jane Wood.
142 reviews7 followers
February 17, 2011
This is book #3 in Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series. If you've read my reviews of books 1 and 2, you know I'm not particularly impressed by them. The only reason I even attempted this book was that my completely mindless job allowed me to listen to audiobooks on my ipod while I worked and I had run out of other books. I still only managed to struggle through the first few chapters. By this point in the series, it's screamingly obvious that Anthony couldn't come up with an original plot to save his life. Every book follows the EXACT same formula even down to relatively minor details. He also uses the word "balk" upwards of 100 times per book. My recommendation: if you read this series at all, read On a Pale Horse and leave it at that.
40 reviews
June 15, 2009
I read On a Pale Horse and loved it, so I decided to try the rest of the series. However, the skewed way women are portrayed in this book completely killed any interest I had in it. Not that On A Pale Horse didn't portray women a little strangely, but it wasn't at all a big part of the book because that book was written from the point of view of a man. This book is sex obsessed and a bit creepy.
Profile Image for Tisha (IG: Bluestocking629).
615 reviews25 followers
March 27, 2018
Rereading this wonderful series. This was the series that got me interested in Fantasy. Before Harry Potter and GOT there was the Incarnations. Such a wonderful series!

This audio version was terrific. Wonderful narration.
Profile Image for Tara.
308 reviews4 followers
September 13, 2023
SO this is what Piers Anthony thinks a woman feels/thinks/etc. Wow. What a trip... explains a lot though.

I would have really enjoyed this story more if the author hadn't been continuously shoving the whole,"I'm a woman so I like housework" or "I'm a woman so I'm prone to emotional outbursts" and the like down my throat.

"I'm a woman so it's Naaaaaaaaaaaatural for me to want to STAY PURE and chaste and be Independant and then give myself to this man as it's my duty!" Barf. Also the part where Fate is protected against all injury and hurts EXcEPT for R*** because it "doesn't cause harm to the body"? Guy can eat the caca and perish.

Saying that. i mostly enjoyed the premise. If it hadn't been for the above, I'd have liked the book more. Unrelatable characters. Will never read again.
Profile Image for An EyeYii.
3,562 reviews61 followers
February 22, 2014
Niobe navigates many mazes, not fun, but relevant to Dungeons and Dragons gaming phase of phantasy. Most of the series adds children to network the Incarnations into an annoyingly intricate web. As talented weaver, she makes fibre into thread, spins, and works looms with precision.

Parents wed her at 21 to Cedric 16, whose singing is magical. Their reluctant friendship grows to enduring passion, broken when he dies in her place to foil Satan.

She burns on a funeral pyre to meet Death, Thanatos, who suggests working as Clothos. The youngest aspect of Fate shares minds with Lachesis and old Atropos until their turn to take over as the physical body. Aside from scheduled shift rotations, whoever is best suited to the task at hand can advise from within or present the appropriate age shell.

She leaves her son with Pacian, Cedric's best friend, cousin, to raise, then marries Pace as mortal. When Satan takes out all three Aspects at once, she surprises him by returning as Lachesis. The war against the Evil One is the thread that runs through the series, most incidents are retold from other viewpoints.

Profile Image for David Sarkies.
1,813 reviews315 followers
July 10, 2015
What a tangled plot is woven
10 January 2012

Once again this series seems to be more intriguing that many of Anthony's other books and does show that he has the ability to weave a good story. I may sound corne using the term weave in this context (as I will explain) but while I would hesitate to read it again, I guess my friend was right when he suggested that Anthony had dumped some good series to focus on the Xanth series, which, in my friend's opinion, had become much more depressing after Anthony began to write for a young disabled girl (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

Luna is also the subject of this book, and once again Satan is attempting to thwart her rise to power. This time the book begins in Ireland on the eve of World War I and the main character, Niobe, is saved from being murdered when he takes her place. Niobe is then given the opportunity to join the Fates: three beings in one body. The Fates (and this obviously is borrowed from the Greeks, though the Fates in Greek mythology are a lot nastier) measure and determine each humans life: its length and when it will end. The first Fate creates life, the second Fate makes sure it does not get tangled, and the third decides when it is going to end.

Satan is also back with his devious plans, and this time he attempts to undermine the Fates by placing inexperienced mortals into the role. However Niobe had been a Fate before, so when she is invited she ends up being a thorn in the side of Satan's plans. Further, she turns out to be the mother of Luna, and while she ages as a mortal, when she is an immortal, she ceases to age (though she can disguise herself). Thus the plot enables Niobe to watch Luna as she grows and then goes to take her place in the UN. However Satan is once again attempting to thwart that goal and is making his promises to the powers that be to step down (with an offer of youth) so that his minions can take their place. Needless to say once again his plans are thwarted.
Profile Image for Amanda.
544 reviews36 followers
August 25, 2009
I haven’t yet posted on the Incarnations of Immortality series, but book 3 seemed like a good place to start. While I enjoyed one and two, this one is so far my favorite. This could possibly be because I love the idea of fate, and I love the way Anthony portrays it in the book.

Niobe’s husband is killed and she goes to try her luck with the Incarnations at keeping him alive. Instead, they offer her the position of Clotho, the spinner of the threads of mortality and one of three women that inherit the single body of fate.

Unlike her predecessors, Niobe’s role is different because she plays a part in Satan’s evil scheme. It is her granddaughter who is slated to save the world from Satan’s plan and her daughter who is to become another Incarnation. After leaving her office as Clotho and returning to birth her daughter and help raise both girls, Niobe is once again asked to take a position with Fate, this time as Lachesis, the maker of the tapestry. And when Satan takes her son’s soul to hell, it is she alone who must go head to head with the devil to save the magician.

After reading two books where the incarnation is male, I enjoyed the female point of view. As far as the whole series goes, this one is proving to be enjoyable because of the way everything fits together. The time line doesn’t always seem to match up, but I’m of the mind that this is because I just can’t get my mind around some of the concepts. Luckily, I can still enjoy the books by taking what they give me at face values.
Profile Image for Goth Gone Grey.
1,066 reviews47 followers
March 8, 2023
Interesting, yet terribly sexist, continuation of the series

Rereading this series after a number of years brings to light much of the good, and the not-so-good. The general idea building in the series of people assuming jobs like Death, War, and here Fate to help balk Satan is interesting. The tale unfolding as the series proceeds shows different points of view on the same events, but not excessively so. Niobe is mostly a solid, interesting character with her own twists and turns, except...

She's written by a male who leans towards idolizing youth and beauty and disparaging aging. Constantly, both in the character's thoughts and descriptions of other characters.

Oh, and there's the naked challenge scene, for no true plot reason, involving Niobe and her 12 year old descendents:

“Dear, soon enough you will be proud to stand nude for self-portraits. There are occasions when modesty is dispensable. This is one such. We are all family and female, and the Mountain King is asleep. No one will see. I daresay this is part of his challenge: have we the courage to go naked to his lair? Remember, the danger is only illusion; if we gulp the water we will not actually forget, we'll merely disqualify ourselves and have to give up the quest. The real test is modesty.”

Which the Mountain King can play back, so either he or the author is pervy. Possibly both.

Plot idea: 5 stars. Pedo sexism: 0 stars. We'll call it 3 as I continue the series...
754 reviews
March 20, 2022
I think I have to stop reading these. I'm just not enjoying them because they feel so dated and out of sync with where I'm at in life and/or emotionally.

HOW MANY TIMES DOES NIOBE HAVE TO SAY SHE'S A WEAK WOMAN? Like, I get that she succeeds EVEN BEING A WEAK WOMAN, but the constant mention of that (not to mention the other, more "subtle" sexism) doesn't seem so much as a call-out or critique but a repetition of a stereotype. Blah.

And the racism! Woof. Not digging it.

This one feels, as did the Time one, like a video game to be solved. And it's not really that interesting to read about "levels" and "mazes" and "challenges" set up this way, particularly because someone else is doing it and the answers will appear eventually if you just keep reading (skimming). Plus, I'm not convinced there's any real danger to the good characters--I'm just waiting to see HOW they succeed, not doubting that they will. Maybe I'm overthinking it? I am taking the ride, after all, maybe I just need to shut up about it?

As for the story, I begin to see more of the pattern (the "tapestry" if you will) of these books. They all center around some key events/people, as opposed to each telling their own unique story. I think you could probably drop in and out of them at will and not lose too much, but the overarching plot is there. And I'm not sure I care enough to continue.

I just can't seem to give up because I still kind of want to know what happens.
171 reviews1 follower
April 16, 2019
Really enjoying this series. Loved Piers Anthony when I was younger and apparently missed this series. Such thought and interwoven-ness in all of the books. A lot of fun.
Profile Image for Michel Siskoid Albert.
375 reviews3 followers
June 13, 2018
Decades ago, I abandoned Piers Anthony as a writer, having outgrown fantasy in general, and his books in particular. While I'd devoured many of his series as a teenager, all but two of his Incarnations of Immortality books remained on the shelf. So as a nostalgic exercise, I slid With a Tangled Skein out of its slot and read it. In Incarnations, Anthony imagines what it would be like to actually be Death, Time, and here, the three faces of Fate, doing their work, but also facing off against Satan's schemes. My long-held opinion of the writer did not change. The ideas are clever, but he's no stylist (by his own admittance). There's lot of tedious redundancy in the prose, and the plots are picaresque (I was dismayed to find the climax was essentially a dungeon crawl). Most damning is his portrayal of sexual politics, only slightly alleviated by the time frame the characters come from. The way men and women interact is old-fashioned, and the protagonist seems to be fated (I get that it's thematic) to sleep with men she doesn't love. There are no less than four attempted rapes in the story, and while the story notes at the end point to a news item that no doubt inspired it, none of them feel necessary, so leave you with a sick feeling, especially given the repetition. Strangely, I would have read more about the characters as they were before Fate intervened, so I thought we were off to a good start. Still fairly enjoyable as an adventure story spanning several decades, but may strain the patience of some readers.
Profile Image for K.D. Reid.
Author 4 books14 followers
August 9, 2018
Not only was it difficult to follow book 1 and then subsequently book 2, but this book had so much misogyny in it, I almost couldn't stomach it! Fate's role in the overall worldview of this book was awesome. Her power is amazing, but the entire story left a bitter taste in my mouth for being a woman. I loved hearing about the background of The Magician, and I would consider this book pivotal to anyone following the greater story of this series. It opens a lot of doors, answers a lot of questions, raises a lot more questions, and Anthony's genius writing style is present throughout. A really great book, except that reading it as a woman left me feeling offended page after page. Very unfortunate. On to book 4.
Profile Image for Michael.
916 reviews143 followers
April 10, 2016
This was the third of Anthony’s “Incarnations of Immortality” series, and it was the last one I read all the way through. I was already outgrowing them, just a few years after I’d first discovered Anthony, with On a Pale Horse. In the interim, I had consumed dozens of his fantasy and sci fi novels, so it’s all good.

In this story, a young woman marries during World War One and loses her husband due to an elaborate plot of Satan. She discovers that she is destined to become Clotho, and Aspect of the Incarnation of Fate, in in the process to foil the Devil’s plans. Unlike the other Incarnations, she is not just handed the office and left alone to figure it out, because there are two other Aspects of Fate (Lachesis and Atropos), who can “show her the ropes,” as it were, and help her figure out how to do her job. Because the story begins in Earth’s past, Anthony has the chance to develop an alternative history for his combined technological-magical Universe, and the reader gets to expand his or her understanding of that world correspondingly. The story is strongly plot-driven, with Niobe’s actions being shown at each step to fit into a complex tapestry of time and destiny. While I didn’t like it as much as the first book, I think I saw it as a step up from the previous one.

And, of course, there was an Author’s Note at the end. In this one, Anthony reveals much about his troubled childhood to the reader, and how important books and fantasy became for him as escapes from misery. It is a note that many of his fans identify with, to one degree or another, and may have been partially responsible for encouraging one young runaway to seek shelter with the Anthony family. Doubtless it was his ability to make himself vulnerable in this manner that has made him so popular for so long.
Author 2 books2 followers
October 16, 2013
I stopped reading midway in disgust. While the misogyny and preoccupation with arranged marriage, rape, nipple torture, and pointless nudity of minors (the latter also featured in every Xanth book) merely grated on me for the first two books, I tried to soldier on because of the intriguing setting and plot. Unfortunately by this one, I was overwhelmingly inundated, culminating in a racist Japanese caricature attempting to rape a woman the moment she enters his dojo, becoming enraged when she defends herself, and demanding that she allow him to rape her anyway as repayment for his honor. Then she falls in love with him.


None of this is framed in a way that implies that there's anything wrong with it -- it's one thing to explore the traumatic effects of sexual assault in a work of fiction; it's another to merely use rape attempts as plot devices, showcase objectified women and children in skeevy attempts at titillation, and glorify incidents of non-consent (as the woman forced to sacrifice her own virginity was nothing but non-consensual; in fact I'm having trouble remembering ANY relationships in the series by this point that weren't arranged or forced). The series finally made my skin crawl so much by this point I had to stop reading and get rid of the books.
Profile Image for Jenny.
6 reviews2 followers
February 7, 2011
This was my first Incarnations of Immortality book, but it got me into them. I do, however, recommend reading them in order, because some of this story was a bit confusing until I back tracked and read the previous books. I really got into them but never got to finish the series, and hope to pick it up again. I might just start the whole series over again. Not a great chore since I liked them so much in the first place. there is just a lot of detail in there, that, if you space the books out, you seem to forget later on while reading 2 books down the line. Although, I do love those moments where it just clicks and you get that "Oohh yeah, now I remember" and realize where everything meets up. I'm not going to tripe on other people's opinions of the book. Some like it and some don't. Sort of like a car. Some people love that year, make and model, and some just prefer something a little different. But I do recommend at least trying out the series. To me, it was one of those good page turners that make you think.
Profile Image for g-na.
387 reviews8 followers
April 12, 2014
Book three in a series. Here we follow the Incarnation of Fate, well, one of the three Aspects of Fate. Unlike the first two Incarnations books we follow Fate (Niobe) through a longer portion of her life, and more interactions with those other than Satan, and that is exactly why I liked this book more than the previous one. However, the central plotline still revolves around a conflict with Satan, and that is getting old. Also, the fact that Anthony was an older, conservative man is coming out in his writing as he has Fate trying to avoid things like babies being born out of wedlock while only the more "liberated" women push for equality and living their own lives. And although this book was written in the 80s, the author describes Asians as "Orientals" and there is a mention of a woman "correcting" eye slant to make her more beautiful.

I'm re-reading these as it's been 17+ years since I first read the books and I didn't remember anything about them, but I do think I need to take a break before completing the series before the religion, racism, and misogyny drive me crazy.
Profile Image for ⚜️XAR the Bookwyrm.
2,318 reviews17 followers
February 12, 2016
Thus begins the Renaissance of the Incarnations novels! Here we get more into Greek mythology with the Aspect of Fate, or as they are known in Greek Mythology: The Three Fates. In this story, the three women share one body and their souls "force" it to assume the shapes they once held in life.

In this book, we are taken on the journey of the life of Niobe, and it is a somewhat long and convoluted journey. She's a bit of a cougar, though at a young age, but when her husband dies unexpectedly is when her story really begins!

The characterization in this story is great, I really enjoyed it, and while it did drag in spots, it did eventually pick back up again. There are a lot of twists and turns in this novel, stuff that I really didn't see coming and don't want to spoil for you here.

This book also starts what I like to call the trilogy within the series and really shouldn't be missed, though I have to say that you must read the series in order to make the best sense of things!
Profile Image for M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews.
4,214 reviews344 followers
January 31, 2019
While not the best of the Incarnations series, it is still a solid read - but then, the entire Incarnations series (if you don't count book 8) are all great reads. This was actually the second book I read (after Being a Green Mother, both books I read about 10 years ago) so I was a bit confused with some of the events. But now having read books 1 and 2, I can appreciate and understand this book much better.

The idea of three women having to share one body at all times is daunting. I can understand sharing it in the mortal world, but it seems that in the magical world or their home on the web, it seemed more logical to me that they should be able to separate into three bodies to conduct their respective duties more efficiently. Still, this is a great book, and a solid addition to the Incarnations series, with the usual mix of comedy and philosophy/thought-provoking passages (and outsmarting Satan himself).
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,921 reviews386 followers
June 4, 2012
This book is very obvious in the author's exploration of good versus evil. You are hit over the head with his ideas (and in the author's note at the end it happens again, just in case you didn't get it during the fiction portion!) It's pretty obvious that a man is writing--the women are very stereotypical (crying about everything, not nearly as intelligent as the male characters, consumed with housework & child care). At least the male characters are also stereotyped as being all about violence & sex.
2,375 reviews134 followers
February 8, 2016
Probably the one I liked the most in the whole series, although I'm sure if I reread it now, all my Issues with Piers Anthony's views on women and sexuality would rise right back up again. I enjoyed the older woman/younger man dichotomy, and that their marriage wasn't consummated until there was feeling on both sides. I love badass middle-aged Niobe, I love Asian kickass Clotho (although the cliches about Asian women I can live without...), and I love even the memory of Satan not even recognizing Niobe as Lachesis because he can't be bothered to actually *look* at her.
101 reviews
September 9, 2011
In Niobe, I encountered an interesting woman who has to come to grips with challenges and tragedies. By the end of the book, I found that I liked her. While it isn't necessary to like the protagonist to enjoy a book, my engagement with Niobe was a measure of how well rounded and interesting the character was that Piers Anthony created. Also, it was nice to read about a strong and intelligent female incarnation.
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