Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Land Beyond Ravens (2009)

When I was a teenager I enjoyed the Merlin/Arthur series of books written by Mary Stewart. This book by Kathleen Cunningham Guler took place at the same time (486 A.D.) but the characters are only tangentially connected with Arthur. Warlords and kings vie for power and Christianity is slowly creeping in and taking over the ancient religions. Marcus and his gifted wife, Claerwen have promised to support Arthur when he inherits the crown of Uther Pendragon and are involved with the intrigue and power struggles.

Claerwen straightened her shoulders. So be it, this was not a place for her. And to visit the grove was not the reason she and Marcus had traveled to Ynys Witrin. They had been charged with the secret transport of Gwyar, daughter of the high king Uther Pendragon and his queen Igraine. The young girl of six summers had become a target of political factions that sought to take her hostage or even to assassinate her. In fear Igraine had decided her daughter must be taken to the Lady of Avalon and raised in obscurity.
Another child in hiding. Like Uther's first-born, Arthur. Claerwen wondered where the boy might be by now. He would turn eight in the next winter. Still so young. She thought of Myrddin Emrys as well, the king's nephew and Britain's last high druid, a powerful man and a longtime friend, who had taken Arthur from Igraine's birthing chamber the night the boy was born. Few had been entrusted with the knowledge that Myrddin was raising Arthur - the boy was an even greater target for assassins that the high king himself.

Myrddin, also known as Merlin, meets with Marcus in this story and we see Arthur from afar but the story is really about all that went on behind, beneath, and around the boy. This story was so rich I slowed down my reading to enjoy the language, the history, and the story.

I highly recommend this book to historical fiction fans, especially lovers of the Arthur stories.

My rating for this book: +++ 1/2

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