This is book 6 of Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony and is the story of Satan himself and his centuries long interaction with all of the other incarnates, even with the gods of old. Perry is the child of a peasant that is abducted by the lord of the manor and forced to be the son of a sorcerer. It is the raising of his youth and the tragedies of his life that make it possible for him to actually save all of mankind from total chaos. The only thing is is that he and the other Incarnations do not know it yet. It will take centuries for him to piece it all together and figure it out before he can truly love once again.
It is near the end of the 12th century and there is a horrible drought upon the land and nothing seems to be able to stop it. The area needs rain and not any prayer or wishing is helping at all. The lord of the land needs to find a way to make sure that the crops grow or both he and his peasants are going to starve to death before any help might find them. With no help from the church he turns to a local sorcerer for help even though the church frowns on that sort of thing. The sorcerer says that he will help but needs assurances that he will be safe and he needs his a newborn child for sacrifice. The land owner agrees rapidly, they just need the rain so that the crops will grow. Without it they will all die so the land owner seizes a child from the village that has just been born and gives it to the man for sacrifice but a wrinkle appears in the form of a local abbot. The abbot found out that a sacrifice was to be made and means to stop it. The land owner fearing the wrath of the church says the child is for adoption and that the sacrifice is actually one of his own sheep. The abbot loves trapping the sorcerer and the land owner gets to gloat as well.
Everything actually works and the child becomes the sorcerer’s son and the rains come as the spell dictated and the abbot is pleased that he has saved another soul on earth. At first the sorcerer is put off about the whole thing but comes to love the child as his own and starts to teach him all that he can about magic and sorcery. On his 15th birthday Perry has a woman brought to him from the village, he want to make her, Jolie, his own but not just own her. He wants to win her love and with that he uses song to reach into her soul to show her just how much he means to her. He doesn’t know it yet but he is using the Llano, or a part of it. It is the some that brought the existence into being and is the most powerful song in all of the known and unknown universe. Very few know of it or even know how to use it and none since the beginning know it all. Perry was born with the ability to tap into it and it is the one thing that is both going to doom him and save him.
For a while he and Jolie are happy together till the crusades start. Once that happens things are set in motion that are going to change his life and shape it forever. It all starts with those around him that he has cared for to suddenly die no matter where he would go. Eventually he realizes that it is his ability to do magic that allows his enemies to track him and he has to find a way to survive as well as not have to use magic. While he is trying to figure this out he meets up with the founders of the Franciscan order of priests and joins them as a singer and asker of alms. So pure is his voice in his grief that he is accepted completely after just one day. So begins his long career as a priest which eventually leads to his serving as an Inquisitor of the Church. He has done so much good for all those around him that in the dwindling days of his life he thinks that he will be able to die free of sin and go to heaven. Boy did he get it wrong!
It is his love of goodness and his love of Jolie that eventually ensnares him to become evil itself. Jolie died at the beginning of the crusades and because of something that has not yet happened her soul is in balance. What that means is that she can not go to either Heaven or to Hell. At her death Thanatos comes to claim her and Perry is actually able to see death himself. Something like this should not be able to happen except that the other doing the seeing is an Incarnate or to be an Incarnate. Since Perry doesn’t seem to be in either of these categories it confuses Death and he goes to try and see what is happening. When he comes back he tells Perry that Jolie’s disposition is such that she can not be classified and is actually now an earth bound spirit. Perry asks that he be permitted to care for her soul and death binds her to a drop of her blood placed of Perry’s wrist. In this way she will be with Perry always. This one act of desperation and love on Perry’s part will have ramifications that no one is able to foresee, not even the Incarnation of Good.
Jolie eventually becomes Perry’s conscience and helper in trying to stop Lucifer from over running the continent. On a trip to try and stop Lucifer from getting the upper hand he succumbs to the love of his wife when she takes possession, the person was willing, of a young woman to facilitate the stopping of a threat to all of Europe. In this form she seduces her husband into making love to her over and over for 2 nights straight. In what should have been innocent love turns into pure guilt for a celibate priest of 35 years. He knows he needs to recant and confess but instead keeps it a secret which in turn allows Lucifer to get into him by way of a demoness named Lilith. She is the oldest except one of female forms and is easily able to complete the corruption of Perry to be a servant of evil. Because Perry has foiled Lucifer so thoroughly it is the Incarnation Of Evil itself that comes to collect his soul. It is the love of both the demoness and his dead wife that allow Perry to vanquish Lucifer and claim the Office of Evil. The holiest of men has now become Satan, the Incarnation of Evil.
It takes centuries for Perry to truly get things in order as he starts to learn how to corrupt men and even Incarnates, especially after they humiliate him. He wants to get back at them but he also is coming to understand something that they do not, the system is not working and only him, JHVH and Gabriel know what is truly going on. It is with this knowledge that he begins to try and set things in motion to fix that. No one knows that he is using evil to facilitate a greater good but he has to use what he has since none of the other Incarnations will even believe him. That is all that he has till he meets one that would make him love once again and destroy him at the same time. It is that one love that is going to be the salvation of all that is in existence both now and into the future to come. It really is for the love of evil that the world and planes of existence that are saved.
Piers Anthony spins a tale that pulls you right into the mix of things from the edges of chaos to the gates of Heaven. So inciting is the writing that you can actually see what it is that you are reading and you don’t want to put it down. Sure there are some rough spots but what book doesn’t have then when an author is dealing with a subject matter that is this expansive. He has the whole universe in his head that is a living and breathing thing and is trying to convey all of those thoughts and feelings into the pages that you are reading. Sometimes those thoughts don’t come out right and can even be misunderstood till you are done reading the whole of it. There are many times in Anthony’s books that you will find yourself lost and wandering but many times that is what is needed to tell the tale and have you feel what is going on. This book is a must read for any that have read the series and is also one that can be a perfect introduction to the series.