With a Tangled Skein (Incarnations of Immortality #3)

With a Tangled Skein (Incarnations of Immortality #3)

by Piers Anthony

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345318855
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/28/1986
Series: Incarnations of Immortality Series , #3
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 132,197
Product dimensions: 4.14(w) x 6.86(h) x 1.13(d)
Lexile: 740L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Piers Anthony, sometimes called Pier Xanthony, is the pseudonym of a Mundane character who was born in England in 1934, came to America in 1940, was naturalized in 1958, and moved to Xanth in 1977. His first story was published in 1963, and his first novel, Chthon, in 1967. His first Xanth novel, A Spell for Chameleon, won the August Derleth Fantasy Award as the best novel for 1977, and his fantasy novels began placing on the New York Times bestseller list with Ogre, Ogre. He shifted from writing in pencil to writing on the computer, and Golem in the Gears was his first novel created on the machine; naturally, the computer found its way into Xanth.

Read an Excerpt

Niobe was the most beautiful young woman of her generation, with hair like buckwheat honey and eyes like the sky on a misty summer morning and a figure that was better imagined than described. But she had her trifling faults, such as an imperious nature fostered by the ability to use her beauty to get her own way, and she was of only average intellect. Also, though she did not know it, she had been marked for a more difficult destiny than she had any right to dream of.
“But, Father!” Niobe protested prettily. “Cedric Kaftan is but sixteen years old, while I am twenty-one! I couldn't possibly marry him!”
Old Sean raised a pacifying hand. “Some rivers are harder to cross than others, and some boats smaller. These are not easy times, my daughter, for Ireland or the world. He belongs to an excellent family, farmers and scholars, and they take care of their own. His age is immaterial.”
“Immaterial!” she snorted. “He is but a child! Father, you do me wrong to marry me to one who is so young!”
The man's jaw tightened. He had the power of the patriarch, but he preferred to have harmony. “Daughter, I did not do you wrong. It is true he is young, but he's growing. He will be a match for you when I am dead and gone.”
“Let him be a match for some little snippet his own age! I absolutely refuse to put up with this indignity!” Her eyes seemed to brighten with her anger, becoming as intense as the midday welkin.
Sean shook his head ruefully, not immune to the luster of his child. “Niobe, you are the bonniest lass in the county, and nicely talented on the loom, but perhaps the most headstrong, too! Twice you have balked at excellent matches, and I was weak enough to let you. Now you are becoming embarrassingly old for a maiden.”
That shook her, but she fought back. “Oh, pooh! A fat old moneybags and an ugly aristocrat! You call those matches?”
“Wealth is not to be sneered at, and neither is aristocracy. You could have had a very easy life, or a very noble one. Such marriages are not easy to come by.”
“Why can't I have a handsome, virile man of twenty-five or so?” Niobe demanded. “Why burden me with a child who probably doesn't know his nose from his—”
Her father's glance stopped her before she went too far. She could only balk him to a certain extent, however softly he might speak. “Because the war has drawn away such men, so that none remain here who are worthy of you. I will not give you to a peasant! You will not marry beneath your station. Cedric is qualified and financially comfortable, thanks to an inheritance, and—”
“And he's growing,” Niobe finished with disgust. “And I'm growing—sick of the very notion! I won't marry such a child, and that's all there is to it.”
But that wasn't all there was to it. This time Sean's foot was firm. Niobe raged and pleaded and cried, to no avail. She was very good at crying, for her name meant “tears,” but her father was impervious. He was determined that this match be consummated.
And so it was. The banns were duly published, and the wedding was held in early summer, when the groom got out of school. Everything was accomplished according to form, but Niobe hardly noticed; she was too chagrined at being married to such a youth. She wouldn't even look directly at him. As the ceremony concluded, he at least had the wit not to try to kiss her.
Thus they found themselves alone in a cottage, which was his inheritance. It was in a glade near a swamp— pleasant enough by day for those who liked that sort of thing, but sinister by night. That was perhaps part of the idea: a couple was supposed to be bolted inside during darkness, huddled together for warmth and comfort. There were great romantic possibilities; the locale was conducive.
Niobe had no trouble resisting conduction. She wrapped her lovely self up in a voluminous quilt—a wedding gift—and slept on the bed. Young Cedric lay beside the hearth, where there was dwindling radiation from the embers. As the quiet chill of the night intensified, neither stirred.
So they spent their nuptial night, the woman and the boy, in silent isolation. In the morning Cedric got up, stoked the ashes in the fireplace, and went out to relieve himself and fetch more wood. Niobe woke to the sound of an axe splitting billets of wood. It was a good sound, for the morning air was chill indeed; soon there would be physical warmth.
Or would there? She remembered that a fireplace was an ineffective way to heat a house. A good stove put six times as much heat into the surrounding air for the same amount of wood burned. There was a stove here; she would see to it. She might not be a genius, but she was practical when it suited her purpose. For one thing, she needed warm hands to operate her loom properly.
She wrapped her coat about her nightrobe and went out to use the outhouse. There was an old catalog beside the wooden seat, half-used, and a bucket of ashes. It was an efficient system, she reflected, for this was the classic place for reflection; one could read each page of the catalog before using it, or simply stare at the pictures. The mind was edified while the body was cleaned. The ashes were to sprinkle over the refuse, cutting down on the smell, and of course there was a ready supply of them at the house. The refuse was periodically toted to the garden for compost. It was an old-fashioned system, but a good one; nothing, really, was wasted. Still, she would have preferred a modern city toilet.
She emerged in due course, shivering in the cold, but she paused to watch Cedric at work. He was not cold at all; the effort of splitting heated him. She had to admit he was good at it; he set each billet of wood on the chopping block and halved it cleanly with a single blow of the axe, so that the pieces toppled to either side. He was a boy— but a big boy, with a fine ripple of muscle as he swung the axe. His blond hair jumped as the axe struck, and a muscle in his cheek tightened momentarily. A bonnie boy, indeed!
He saw her and paused. “You're cold, Miss Niobe,” he said with a rich backwoods accent that, like Niobe's form, is better imagined than rendered. “Here, take my jacket till I get the wood in. I'm too hot anyway.”
“Don't call me miss,” she protested. “I am, after all, your wife.” It grieved her to say it, but it was a truth she could not deny, and honesty required that she not attempt to. A marriage, however ill-conceived, was a marriage.
“He paused, half-startled. “Uh, sure, I guess so. But you know, ma'am, it was none o' my notion to get married like this; I'm not even through school.”
“She might have guessed! “It wasn't my idea either,” she said. “At least not—”
“Not to an ignorant kid!” he finished with a rueful grin, “Come on, now, take the jacket before you freeze your toes off, miss—uh, ma'am.” He approached her, jacket extended.
“Just a moment,” she said, constrained to assert her independence even from this. “You look a lot more comfortable than I am. Give me that axe.”
“Oh, that's not no woman's work, ma'am! I'll do it.”
“That isn't woman's work,” she said, annoyed by the double negative.
“That's what I said!” Then he paused, embarrassed. “Oh—you mean the way I said it. I'm sorry. I'm just a backwoods boy, ma'am, and sorry you had to get stuck with—”
“What's done is done, Cedric,” she said firmly. She wrested the axe from his grip, knowing he could offer no effective resistance to her because she was an adult. She set up a billet and swung at it—and caught the very edge of it. The blade caromed off and plunged into the ground beside her right foot.
“Uh, ma'am, please—” Cedric said, worried.
“No, I can do it!” she said, hauling the axe up again in a wobbly trajectory.
He jumped to intercept her. “Let me help you, ma'am, no offense.”
“You're afraid I'll break the axe!” she accused him.
“No ma'am! I'm afraid you'll chop off a toe, and I'd sure hate to have anything like that happen to a foot as dainty as that.”
She relaxed. His diplomacy was effective because it was unschooled. “So would I! I did come close, didn't I? All my incidental studies about trees, and I never split a single blivet of—”
“Billet, ma'am,” he said quickly.
She had to laugh. “Of course! I don't use the language as well as I supposed!”
“Oh, no, you talk real fine, ma'am,” he said. “Now you take the handle like this, see, and—” He reached around her to put his hands over hers, setting hers properly on the handle. His hands were larger than hers, callused and strong, seeming too big for his body. She wondered whether boys, like puppies, had outsized paws if they were still growing into them. If so, Cedric would in due course be a young giant.
“How is it your hands are so rough, when your family is scholarly?” she asked thoughtlessly.
He snatched his hands away. “Oh, you know, fighting,” he said, embarrassed.

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With a Tangled Skein (Incarnations of Immortality #3) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
Wesker_Chick More than 1 year ago
The third in the "Incarnations of Immortality" series, this is the book that really starts to tie the characters from previous books together. You soon learn that Niobe is tied to characters from both "On A Pale Horse" and "Bearing An Hourglass" and becomes pivitol in the later books. Personality wise, she is a gripping character and grows within the story, which is a very important component to any story. I do recommend that you read "On A Pale Horse" and "Bearing An Hourglass" first, just because characters from those books show up again in this one.
silverwindintx More than 1 year ago
Rating: Excellent Review By: Tiffany Martin Book three of Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality explores the aspect of Fate in her three guises as Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. When Niobe loses the man she loves in a plot by Satan that was to take her life instead, she vows to balk Satan wherever she can. When she is offered the opportunity to become as aspect of the Incarnation Fate, she accepts. As the "most beautiful woman of her generation", she becomes Clotho, the spinner of life's threads that weave the tapestry of life. After 38 years as that aspect, she steps down when she falls in love with her husband's cousin, Pacian. When he passes away, Fate comes to her again and requests that she return as Lachesis, the measurer of life's threads. In this guise, she is able to thwart the Devil's ingenious plans to rob her granddaughter of being "the saviour of man". The world that Anthony has created of magic and science co-existing makes you feel as if you were to step out of your house, you would see a magic carpet flying by. Or perhaps pegasus. These books also cause you to stop and think - what if our final destinations really are weighed by the good and the bad we've done in this life? This book is a very compelling read and ties in very well with the first two books - To Ride A Pale Horse and Bearing An Hourglass. I do suggest reading the first two books to follow the overall scheme of things, but it's not necessary as this book is a story in and of itself, but is also part of a larger story being told.
jphillips3334 on LibraryThing less than 1 minute ago
For this book, Anthony tells the tale of how the Aspect of Fate works in his Incarnations series. This is the third in the series. After tackling the office of Death and Time, he goes onto Fate. A mortal still occupies the office, but Fate works a little different. Three different mortal women make up the aspects of Fate (Clotho, Atropos, and Lachesis). Our heroine takes on the role of fate on two separate occasions in order to foil Satan¿s grand plan, which is so intricate that it involves the mortal children of Niobe (the woman chosen to be Fate twice). As with the other books in this series, the hero/heroine must overcome obstacles both physical and mental to reach the final goal. Anthony¿s characters are always tasked to use their brains more than brawn. Even with a world that uses magic on an everyday basis, it¿s never used as a crutch to further the story. It¿s another enjoyable book in the series.
Gkarlives on LibraryThing less than 1 minute ago
This is the last fun book in the Incarnations of Immortality series. I loved the interaction between the various aspects of fate and the different perspectives the main character gets from playing more than one role.
JechtShot on LibraryThing less than 1 minute ago
In the third book of the Incarnations series, With a Tangled Skein, Piers Anthony tackles the aspect of Fate. An immortal divided into three parts: Clotho - who weaves the threads of life, Lachesis - who measures the threads and Atropos - who cuts the threads. Niobe Kaftan, the most beautiful woman of her generation, takes on the role of Clotho in her youth and later is given the opportunity to return as Lachesis. Niobe must use her powers as Fate to foil that wacky Satan and his devious plots. In my opinion, this book focuses more on setting the stage for future novels. We learn of a prophecy that foretells that Luna will love death (see book 1) and that Niobe's daughter Orb will love Evil and will become an incarnation (read: foreshadowing / pre-selling of later books in the series). Fate's role in this book is essentially to ensure that Luna is able achieve her seat in government 20 years hence.I sense that the Incarnations novels are starting to lose some steam at this point, but I won't give up just yet. An entertaining read.
Karlstar on LibraryThing less than 1 minute ago
This series starts to take a series drop off at this point. Fate must now contest against Evil to save those she used to know, even though she is now an Immortal. Unfortunately, with Time, Death and Fate all mixed in with this, it starts to feel a little implausible that they can't fix the situation. Still an interesting concept, but by this book it was starting to reach where the concept alone couldn't carry the books.
Scoshie on LibraryThing less than 1 minute ago
#3 of the Incarnations series-- Piers Anthony Knows how to write stories that not only keep your attention but keep their story thread though out all of his series. Wonderful JobSet around the time of World War I, a young Irish (around 21-23) woman named Niobe has a marriage arranged for her by her parents. Her husband-to-be is a teenage boy (16-17) named Cedric Kaftan. She considers him too immature for her, but can find no way out of the marriage. Although Niobe at first hates being married to a "child", Cedric's good nature, kind heartedness, and desire to make his wife happy and safe win her over, and she soon falls madly in love with her husband. Cedric shows that he is an intellectual prodigy. With some prodding and nurturing from his wife as well as from his mentor, Cedric accepts a scholarship to attend college and hone his magical abilities. As he matures and finds his niche in magic and wetland studies, he and Niobe have a child: Cedric Jr. With a bright future certain, and wizardry greatness assured, life in the Kaftan house was happy indeed. Sadly a few years later, Cedric learns of a plot to kill Niobe. Seeing no way to avert it, Cedric leaves school, goes home to Niobe, hastily puts his affairs in order, and sets in motion the only way he can save his wife's life..... by taking her place. On the fateful morning, Cedric wakes up to make love to his wife one last time, kisses her goodbye and goes into the woods to face his destiny. Awakened by gunshots, Niobe learns her husband is assassinated as part of a plot by the agents of Satan. She learns not only of the plot, but that she, and not her husband, was the real target. Upon learning this, Niobe's hatred for having her husband's life cut short, makes her vow to make Satan pay. She is invited to join the Incarnation(s) of Fate, and then the problems start.
surreality on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Plot: A repeat performance from the previous two books in the series. Character gets mixed up in supernatural business, gets a position as an Incarnation, evil tricks her, she tricks evil, it goes back and forth a bit, and in the end all is relatively well. No surprises here. Characters: The wasted potential is almost painful to watch. Two-dimensional and boring, no development, no credibility. Style: Chauvinism thick enough to cut with a knife. Boring prose and occasionally very strange logic. Plus: It prompts some interesting thoughts, though the book itself never follows them up. Minus: There's an overall oddness about it and it never feels like a good read. Summary: Sorry, but no. The series jumped the shark here.
Bookmarque on LibraryThing 3 months ago
This story followed the typical pattern of all these books. First we get a lot of background on the main character before they are plunged into their role as an Incarnation. Here, because they are new, they are tested by Satan to see if he can get them to trip up and spoil the grand scheme to foil him in some years hence. That plan always centers around Luna, girlfriend of Death, niece of Fate and cousin of the future Nature. Finally there is a test of wits, brains and brawn to foil Satan and make sure that Luna becomes a senator and can balk Satan when the time comes.It is wearing thin. Preachy, sexist and highly repetitive.
kawgirl on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I don't know if I would have read it except someone gave me a copy of the book. I'm glad they did because I found the book entertaining. I'm still not sure I would go out of my way to read it, though.
Anonymous 5 months ago
pulls you In and doesn't let you go
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The only problem I had with this book was all the spelling errors. There were so many that it actually became annoying. The story itself, and the way the book was written was very good. I don't see how anyone wouldn't enjoy this book. Now on to Mars for me. I hope that it doesn't have the same problem with spelling.
AVoraciousReadr More than 1 year ago
Fate ~ What a tangled web... *Book source ~ My home library Niobe is 21 and her father finally puts his foot down and arranges a marriage for her to 16-yr-old Cedric Kaftan. No matter how much she cries and argues her father doesn’t waver in his stance, so she ends up married to Cedric. After a rocky beginning they make a go of the marriage before Cedric is shot and killed. Niobe finds out that Cedric had taken the bullet meant for her due to an evil plan of Satan. Satan should have left things alone because now Niobe is out for revenge. Even if she has to assume an aspect of Fate she intends to make the Devil pay for taking away the man she loved. Niobe’s life is certainly an interesting one. From her marriage to Cedric to her role as Clothos and beyond, she has a definite link to a woman who will foil Satan’s ultimate plan. No wonder he tried to take her out when she was younger. However, if he hadn’t tried to have her killed then her husband wouldn’t have taken her place and she wouldn’t have assumed the office of Clothos. Oh, what a tangled web he tries to weave…and weaving is the province of Fate. He should have just left it all alone. This story is interesting from beginning to end and Niobe has a long long life. I did get a bit confused at the end when she has to navigate the maze, but that didn’t stop my enjoyment of the book on the whole. I can’t say any more without giving away key plot points, but I can say it’s not a dull moment. I love seeing all of the Incarnations coming together to foil Satan’s Big Plan. I’m looking forward to revisiting Book 4 which is about Mars.
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