This past weekend, I read a couple of YA novels that took the standard fairy-tale premise of “the prince saves the princess and they lived happily ever after” and turn it around into “the princess saves the princess (and whether they lived happily ever after is a bit more ambiguous)”. That made me want to reread Diane Duane’s groundbreaking “the prince saves the prince” novel, The Door info Fire (1979, revised edition 1984). I’ve quoted from this book once or twice before; it would not be an overstatement to say that it was probably the most important novel of my life after I discovered the first edition in a second-hand bookstore.
In this scene, the Goddess has come to share herself with the main protagonist, Herewiss, who is on a quest (his beloved having been successfully rescued from a siege). She is speaking, somewhat obliquely, maintaining the pretense that She is an innkeeper:
“But at the same time, loss of power, the death of things, is a process that not even the Goddess can stop. Eventually even the worlds will die.”
“So they say.”
Her face was profoundly sorrowful, her eyes shadowed as if with guilt. “The death is inevitable. But we have one power, all men and beasts and creatures of other planes. We can slow down the Death, we can die hard, and help all the worlds die hard. To that purpose it behooves us to let loose all the power we can. To live with vigor, to love powerfully and without caring whether we’re loved back, to let loose building and teaching and healing and all the arts that try to slow down the great Death. Especially joy, just joy itself. A joy flares bright and goes out like the stars that fall, but the little flare it makes slows down the great Death ever so slightly. That’s a triumph, that it can be slowed down at all, and by such a simple thing.”
This is one of three or four scenes in this book that still make me cry every. single. time.
Available from Ebooks Direct as part of the omnibus The Tale of the Five. Duane has announced that the long-promised fourth book in the series, The Door into Sunset, should be completed some time in 2017. (The series has had a somewhat Unfortunate publishing history, and for all the people like me who rave about it, it has never sold as well as Duane’s popular Young Wizards series of YA novels, which explores some of the same themes.)