Legacies – Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

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Spirit White wakes up out a coma after a car accident, to find her parents and sister are dead, and that her parents had made arrangements to send her to Oakhurst Academy in the event that they both died before she turns twenty one. Turns out, Oakhurst is a school for magicians, and that one of Spirit’s parents had to have gone there.

It’s a weird place – rich prep school in the middle of nowhere, Montana. And Spirit doesn’t seem to have any magic. But, she does make friends, and all seems ok, until a few students disappear. Spirit and her friends investigate, and come to interesting conclusions about the school.

This is very much a set up book – the end game of this story is clearly only the beginning. There’s definitely a lot of things these kids aren’t being told, and it sure looks to me like a lot of parents are dying when they don’t need to – I’m actually surprised no one talked about it in this book, but I’m sure it’ll come up again later.

My favorite part, and I don’t think I’m being too spoilery here – the Wild Hunt as zombie bicycle/ATV/assorted other wrecked vehicle gang. Loved that.

I’m interested to see where this goes. It’s clearly laying some Authurian groundwork, but is still open to nearly endless potential.

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Pendragon – Stephen R. Lawhead

I was very curious to see how this book was going to work – it’s a tacked on end to a former trilogy that actually ended with the death of Arthur.    So bringing back another Arthur story was definitely a bold move.     What this story does is go back to a few moments in Arthur’s youth that serve to illustrate the king he will become, and then go into detail about one of the first great battles he has after he is made king.

I liked this book better than I did Arthur – I think by concentrating on one time period, it served the story better.    Arthur looked at three distinct periods in his life, and became a little disjointed because of it.    It’s a shame the author hadn’t decided to go this route in the first place.

It was also a little less overly Christian.    I don’t know – the idea of a fully Christian Merlin just really rubs me the wrong way – but it just doesn’t seem as in your face in this book as the others.

Arthur – Stephen R. Lawhead

This in the final book I had read in the Pendragon Cycle, back in the day (aka, high school).    It was also formerly the last book in the cycle – and it’s very much an end book, so it would appear that the two books that come after it take place in time frames covered by this book, as this book starts with Arthur taking the sword from the stone, and ends with him going to Avalon, gravely wounded, after the battle with Medraut.

These books have always taken their own path through Arthurian legend – Arthur is the son of Aurelius, not Uther; when he takes the sword from the stone, the other kings will not immediately accept his High Kingship, so he takes up Uther’s old title of Duke of Britain instead; Gwenhwyvar is an Irish queen (in her own right) and warrior – I could go on.

As I’ve noted in my rereads of the previous two books in the series, this is also a very Christian book.    Again, perhaps not in a modern way that would tie into any particular flavor of Christianity of our time, but it’s a contrast to many other modern retellings where the struggle between the pagan religions and Christianity coming in is much more pronounced.

The other thing about this book it’s very compact compared to the other two.    I think that’s partially because the other two really do deal with the life of particular person (or two – Charis and Taliesin, and Merlin), and while this book focuses on Arthur, it’s about more than just him – it’s the whole Summer Kingdom.   I suspect that’s why the author chose to expand the series.     And now I’ve tracked those two books down (as well as a sixth book – Avalon, which is apparently a modern day postscript).     So I’ll be out of reread territory, and into something new.

Merlin – Stephen R. Lawhead

Here’s another technical re-read, from back in my high school days.     It’s the story of Merlin, from childhood, to when he claims the baby Arthur from Uther Pendragon.

In this series, Merlin is the son of the bard Taliesin and the Princess Charis of Atlantis, daughter of the Fisher King.     He is foretold to be a king, and in his younger days, he rules alongside his step father as king of Dyfed.      The death of his wife and unborn child drives him mad, and he disappears into the forest for a number of years.     When he emerges, he is no older, but many of his companions have died.      His legend has grown, especially when people see he has not aged.

A young man named Aurielus is shortly to become High King of Britain, and his younger half brother Uther is the chief of his army.     Anyone familiar with Arthurian legend knows where this is going.

The first thing I noticed is how Christian this book is.     Not in a modern sense, but Merlin is firmly a Christian from birth, despite also being prophesied by the Druids to be their king.     It’s an interesting take on things – certainly a way different view than The Mists of Avalon, for instance.

The other thing is that I really didn’t get a sense of Merlin as a man.     He’s a young appearing man.      And his life before Uther seems quick.      (I suppose the fact that he’s mad for a good portion of it helps.)     I just don’t get a good sense of deep-seated power from him.    I suppose this Merlin is born to his power, but I feel like I need to understand better where it truly comes from, and this story left me lacking.    Still, it’s a good transition to the next book, called Arthur, so you know exactly where the story is headed.

An Earthly Knight – Janet McNaughton

Here’s another great entry in the list of books that are mostly historical fiction, with just a touch of a fairy tale thrown in.    In this case, it’s a combination of the stories “Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight” and “Tam Lin”.

Lady Jeanette is the younger daughter of a Norman Lord living in the Borders of Scotland.    Her older sister, Isabel, had been the hope of the family for marrying well and increasing their father’s influence in Scotland, but she has been disgraced.     So Jenny finds herself the new focus of her father’s need to expand his influence.      At the same time, she meets Tam Lin, the grandson of the Duke of Roxburgh, who had disappeared for a time, before resurfacing at the old family hall, now in ruins.      He lives there alone, and most think him mad.    Jenny is immediately drawn to him.

When Jenny catches the eye of Earl William, younger brother to King Malcolm, heir presumptive to the throne, Jenny’s father is thrilled.     Jenny is not so sure.    Torn between Tam and her duty to her family, she must figure out a way to make her own life.

The author mentioned in the end notes that she went to Scotland to poke around in the area where she wanted Jenny to live, and you can tell she’s put a lot of thought into this story – trying to her best to capture an accurate flavor of the twelfth century in the Borders.     I really enjoyed this book – Jenny is a worthy protagonist, and it was exciting to see where her story would go next.

The Perilous Gard – Elizabeth Pope

Read for the Once Upon a Time IX Reading Challenge.

Kate and her sister Alicia are both ladies in waiting to the Lady Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth I) when her sister Mary is still Queen.   Since Alicia is the sweet, innocent one, an imprudent remark of hers is blamed on Kate, and Kate is exiled to the care of Geoffrey Heron, at his home in Elvenwood, also known as the Perilous Gard.

Once Kate arrives, she finds plenty of secrets that no one wish to share with her, including the disappearance of Geoffrey’s young daughter, and the involvement of his brother Christopher with the mysterious People of the Hill.

What’s really great about this book is it reads like pretty straight historical fiction set in Tudor times, but the People of the Hill may or may not be Fae – there’s just enough detail to left to the imagination to leave that as an open question.     Kate really is the center of the story – not any sort of magic.    She’s a great heroine, and I read though this book as quickly as I could to make sure she came out of her experience under the hill alive and well.

Taliesin – Stephen R. Lawhead

Here’s another reread – this is a five book series (The Pendragon Cycle) that I had read the first three books of back in high school, and then lost track of.  (It was originally the trilogy I read, but he then expanded it.)    I happened upon the last two used, so brought the rest out of storage to get reacquainted with the story.

This is an Arthurian cycle, but the first book is very much a precursor, a way to bring Atlantis and the Welsh bard Taliesin into the story.      In the first two sections, the chapters alternate between the stories of Charis, a princess of Atlantis, and Taliesin, the semi-mythic but historical Welsh bard.

Charis is the daughter of Avallach, one of the kings of Atlantis.     She has a touch of the sight, and she is able to save her father and some of her kin, even though barely anyone else will believe that she forseen the fall of Atlantis.     They find their way to Britain, and build the castle of Ynis Witrin – the Glass Isle, home of the Fisher King (you should now recognize Avallach’s name).    Oh, and did I mention that Charis has a jealous younger half sister named Morgian?

Taliesin is raised by King Elphin of Gwynedd, who found him as an infant in a salmon weir.    He was immediately recognized as a bard by the local druids – foreseen to be a great king of the Summerlands.    He does have many gifts, including the sight, where he at one point sees Charis, and names her the Lady of the Lake.

Charis and Taliesin eventually do meet, marry, and have a child – Merlin.    I’ll admit, that portion of the story didn’t work for me as well.    It’s probably partially because I already knew something that would happen at the end, and I think it made the rest seem rushed to me.      I also didn’t love how Taliesin converted over to the Christian faith very quickly, after a vision, which didn’t seem terribly Christian like to me.     I don’t know, that part just rang a bit weird to me.

Anyway, if you’re reading this book for the Arthurian stories, this one is a bit light on those, but it does have some important set up for some of what’s to come.