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Sword and Shadow    by Ann Marston order for
Sword and Shadow
by Ann Marston
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Avon, 2000

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Sword and Shadow is the final book in Marston's Sword in Exile trilogy, which follows in the world of her prior Rune Blade trio. These six stories have spanned generations of adventure in a Celtic realm of the Isle of Celi. By the second trilogy, Celi has been conquered by an evil mainland sorceror and his Somber Riders and its princes have fled to the Highlands and to smaller outlying islands.

The sorceror, Hakkar, uses foul blood magic to unnaturally extend his lifespan. He has cast a spell over the Isle of Celi, that subdues its people and takes from them their will to resist his rule. His Riders are sent as assassins against anyone showing signs of magic. Hakkar's conquest and vicious subjugation of the Celae was instigated by a prophecy that an Enchanter from their midst would destroy his Maedun empire.

Exiled on the small isle of Skerry, Prince Athelin of Skai raises his family including twin boys Acaren and Rowan. They were born to be champions of their people - Acaren to lead in battle, and Rowan to use magic. But that magic is slow in appearing. In the meantime Hakkar senses it developing and sends his Somber Riders, at the same time as his debilitating spell steadily spreads.

I have enjoyed both of Marston's trilogies, though Sword in Exile has been darker and more tragic than her first. It was a relief to finally find some hope in Sword and Shadow. It has the author's usual complement of brave and loyal Celts, with their gods, rituals and romance, in action against true evil ... and this time they have a chance to recover the magical swords and fight back, with the help of Myrddyn and their gods.

It's an intriguing world, a 'must read' for any lover of Celtic fantasy, and Sword and Shadow makes an exciting and satisfactory ending. But if these series are new to you, start with the first Rune Blade story, Kingmaker's Sword.

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