- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Roc Trade (1 Sept. 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0451458478
- ISBN-13: 978-0451458476
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.6 x 23.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,660,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Pride of Kings Paperback – 1 Sep 2001
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Despite this confusing oddity, the story is well-wrought with Tarr's craftsman-like skill, introducing a Prince John Lackland who is handled with intelligence and care to turn him into a nuanced, sympathetic character while remaining entirely within the unpleasant picture that history paints of him. With him comes Arslan, a protagonist that shares much with characters like Alf, Aidan, and especially Roland (from _Kingdom of the Grail_) from her other works. Magic (portrayed in a way that is somewhat reminiscent of Susan Cooper's "The Dark is Rising" sequence, with a conflict between the Wild and the High magic) and strangely beautiful people dominate, while Tarr focuses upon the relationships between men and women and lords and subjects that were so important in the Middle Ages, and as always there's a particular, enchanting quality to the language used which affects the way that the book is perceived by the reader.
Overall, the book is a good, solid read. It's not as exceptional as her earlier series, such as the aforementioned "Hound and the Falcon" or the purely fantastic "Avaryan Rising", but in the end it's very enjoyable. Some plot developments may come across as somewhat predictable, especially for those who have read many of Tarr's recent novels, but this book is certainly among her most engrossing in the last few years.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Henry is dead, Richard the Lionhearted is to be crowned King of the English, but there is another crown waiting for him, did he but accept it: the crown of the King of Britain, guardian of the mystical realm that is Britain, warded by four guardians who are more than human. However, Richard's eyes and heart are set on Jerusalem and his Crusade. He has no use for Pagan ceremonies and spurns the Crown of Britain. This sets in motion a magical chain of events that resonated in the real world.
In Anjou, Arslan, a young ... son of a dead lord waits with his two Seljuk servants. He had been born and raised in outremer, the son of a mortal lord and an Ifritah, a spirit of fire. In him the magic runs high. A Crusade is gathering and he intends to return to the East. However, he is given a prophetic dream, in which he is told that he must go to Britain, where he is needed. There comes riding into his brother's keep a company, one of whom is recognizable as William, a ... Plantagenet. The other, who seems less worthy is pushed aside while William is feted. The one who is pushed aside is John Lackland, the very legitimate son of Henry and Eleanor of Acquitaine. He is pleased to be amused by it and when he rides out, leaving a discomforted Lord of Anjou, he takes Arslan with him.
The mystical forces that protect Britain offer John a bargain. They offer him a chance to rule as overlord of the spirit of the place, but he is to pay a price. That price is that the world will see him as his brother's usurper and would not know of the service that he had performed to save Britain (and England) to, from the forces arrayed against it.
The book though focuses mainly on Arslan, on his love for one of the Guardians and how two people both blessed and cursed with magic come to an understanding. Arslan, the son of a spirit of fire, is beautiful and strong. His name means lion. The Lady Eschivra, the daughter of Morgana and a river god, is older than him in years, wiser than he in magic, but more tangled in her thoughts and emotions. Together they must face the forces of the Wild Magic, of Sorceries sent against them by enemies outside Britain, and the convolutions of their own too human hearts.
If you liked Ms Tarr's earlier fantasies, if you have a fondness for Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill and Reward and Fairies, if you just enjoy a good historical fantasy then grab a copy, curl up on the couch with a small dog or two (I recommend a Jack Russell terrier) and settle down to enjoy a rouse-- and touching-- fantasy.
(By the way, the title is a pun. It refers to both the feeling of pride, and a collective noun for all the young lions who make up the actors in this book.)
Tarr does a wonderful job re-introducing us to some of the most important historical figures of medieval England. Richard, who was the last hope for the crusades, John, who signed the Magna Carta creating the basis for Britain's modern government, and Eleanor of Aquitaine, who brought half of France as her bridal gift when she married Henry II of England (and launched both kingdoms into a war that would last over a hundred years).
Interesting, but less impressive was Tarr's job describing the magic that binds men to their land and the land to its kings. I would have liked to see more dimensionality in these magical characters.
Overall, I recommend this book highly.