The previous book in the series, Mistress of Mistresses, opened in our own world with the funeral of Lessingham, an older gentleman who’d apparently done great things in his youth.The scene then shifted to Zimiamvia where the death of King Mezentius and, in fairly short order, his son King Styllis has set off a dynastic struggle between Mezentius’ bastard son Barganax (basically a decent guy) and Mezentius’ daughter, the reigning Queen Antiope (supported by the very not-nice Vicar of Rerek, Horius Parry, and Parry’s supremely competent cousin-german Lessingham (the same? different? who can say?), whose family ties oblige him to support his rat-bastard of a cousin.Oh, and he’s also extremely sweet on the young Queen, and those affections are most definitely reciprocated.So we had all manner of battles and intrigues and betrayals and romances, with a soupçon of magic, told in Eddison’s inimitable prose.
The events of Fish Dinner take place before Mistress of Mistresses, although I’m going to studiously avoid (as would, I believe, Eddison) using the word “prequel” to describe it.We actually have two parallel stories – in our own world, we follow the meeting, courtship and marriage of Lessingham and Lady Mary Scarnside; in Zimiamvia, we’re back with King Mezentius, his son Barganax, Barganax’ mother Amalie, the redoubtable Vicar and various others who’ll cause and/or become embroiled in the events of Mistress of Mistresses.
Having said that, this is not a book of action; it’s primarily a book in which the various characters, in various combinations and permutations, have lengthy discussions about the nature and purpose of existence and of Love (yes, capital L), especially at the eponymous fish dinner.It’s also at least hinted that Zimiamvia has been created so that Lessingham and Mary (in various incarnations) have an opportunity to spend more time together.
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