From Publishers Weekly
In this wonderfully imaginative historical fantasy from Kay (A Song for Arbonne), seemingly random deeds connect Erling (Viking) raiders and Anglcyn (English) and Cyngael (Welsh) princes: If only Bern Thorkellson hadn't stolen that horse in a desperate act of vengeance against his sorry fate; if only Dai ab Owyn hadn't stepped outside the safety of Brynfell right at the moment when the Erlings attacked; if only Ivarr Ragnarson hadn't been born ill-formed and downright cruel; if only Aeldred hadn't been king of the Anglcyn; if only Thorkell Einarson had murdered only one man and not the second; if only Alun ab Owyn hadn't stepped into that pool on a moonless night and seen the Queen of the Elves in procession. At first glance, each individual's act appears to be a normal human response. It's only later, as the characters' paths cross, that the pieces come together to weave a dazzling tapestry of conjoined fates. Solid research, filtered through vibrant prose, serves to convey a sense of how people really lived and died in Viking and Anglo-Saxon times and how they might have interacted with the realm of magic on a daily basis. Readers of lighter fantasy should be forewarnedthe novel contains a lot of gruesome killing and the fairy world plays a relatively minor role, as do women.
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Kay's third excellent fantasy set in the world of The Lions of Al-Rassan
(1995) and The Sarantine Mosaic
(1999) begins about three centuries after the events of the latter. The place is an alternate Britain, the specific time the era in which a king modeled on Alfred of Wessex (849-99), called the Great, began to make headway against raiders from the north. The times and the battles are presented from several points of view, including those of Bern Thorkellson, a young northern outlaw; Aeldred of the Anglcyn (Alfred); his children; and Cenion, a learned cleric of Llywerth (Wales). Not all the battles involve weapons. The princes of Llywerth struggle with the half-world not accepted by the new faith of Jad, and Aeldred fights to get his lords to learn to use more than their weapons. The Erlings (northmen) struggle for a living, as their lives and land are hard, but realize that raiding is harder than it used to be. A distinguished story that, for those so inclined, poses intriguing historical riddles. Frieda MurrayCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved