On A Pale Horse  
File-On A Pale Horse cover by Piers Anthony
On a Pale Horse paperback book cover
Author(s) Piers Anthony
Country United States
Language English
Series Incarnations of Immortality
Genre(s) Fantasy
Publisher Del Rey Books
Publication date 1983-10-12
Media type Hardcover and Paperback
Pages 325
ISBN 9780345309242
OCLC Number 9393093
Dewey Decimal 813/.54 19
LC Classification PS3551.N73 O5 1983
Followed by Bearing an Hourglass


On a Pale Horse is a fantasy novel by Piers Anthony. It is the first of eight books in the Incarnations of Immortality series. The book focuses on Zane, a photographer about to commit suicide, but who instead kills Death and must assume his office.

The title is derived from the sixth chapter of Book of Revelation, in which one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death, rides upon a pale horse.

The book also spawned a 5-issue comic series. It was released by Innovation in 1993.


The book focuses on Zane, a desperate and lonely man who decides to commit suicide. As he is about to shoot himself, he sees the figure of Death walking towards him and, panicking, Zane shoots and kills Death instead. Zane learns that deities such as Death, Time and the Fates are roles performed by human beings. Death's role is to send the souls of the dead to Heaven, Hell or Purgatory depending upon the good and evil gathered by the soul during their life. Where a soul is in fine balance, Death must attend personally to make the final determination and send the soul to its appropriate destination. In performing his role, Zane attends the death of a powerful magician, Cedric Kaftan Jr.. Cedric tells Zane that he manipulated fate to ensure that Zane became Death. Cedric believes that Zane will fall in love with his daughter, Luna Kaftan, and will guard her life. Luna is threatened by Satan due to a prophecy which states that she is destined to thwart Satan's schemes.

On Cedric's final wishes, Luna and Zane spend time together and quickly fall in love as predicted. Zane also learns that Luna took on some of her father's sin to ensure that his soul was in balance when he died so that he would receive a personal visitation from Death. Cedric assumed his daughter was innocent and that this excess sin would not burden her soul but she had performed black magic without telling her father and her soul is now destined for Hell should she die. Satan succeeds in manipulating fate to ensure that Luna will die before she can fulfill the prophecy. Believing her death to be inevitable, Luna chooses to die in the place of a young woman. This final good deed places Luna's soul in balance and Zane must personally attend to her death, but he refuses to take her soul because of his love for her. By refusing to take her soul, no other souls can make their journeys to the afterlife and dying mortals remain in agony, unable to die. Satan appeals to Zane to end his strike, and tries to bribe him and then intimidate him into taking Luna's soul to end the deadlock.

Zane, however, has come to realise that, as Death, he has absolute power over his own sphere of influence and that Satan cannot force him to take a soul. With no souls being released and, in particular, no souls going to Hell, Satan admits defeat. His plot to kill Luna before her time is exposed and she is able to return to life.


Death (Zane) Edit

Luna Edit


Mortis (Car/Horse)Edit

Major Characters

Fate Edit




Death's MotherEdit

Magician KaftanEdit

Minor Characters Edit

Locations Edit

Concepts Edit

Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony
On a Pale HorseBearing an HourglassWith a Tangled SkeinWielding a Red SwordBeing a Green MotherFor Love of EvilAnd EternityUnder a Velvet Cloak
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