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Queen of the Amazons    by Judith Tarr order for
Queen of the Amazons
by Judith Tarr
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2005 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I'm a long-term fan of Judith Tarr, and have especially enjoyed her fantasies based on various aspects of the life of Alexander the Great. Here's another, that takes in his relationship with Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. And no, it's not what you immediately think - though there is an exceptional romance in the tale, it doesn't involve either of these two leaders.

Hippolyta has a daughter who's born without a soul. The queen's sister Phaedra, displaced as heir, urges that the baby be killed. The blind seer forbids it. The seer's niece Selene has long denied her own Goddess-given talents, ever since she shared her mother's fiery death through them. Selene, who finds that baby Etta's presence quenches the nightmares that have driven her to desperation, becomes the child's guardian ... and waits to see what will come to fill this empty vessel.

There's treachery and rebellion, the people's priestesses in particular resisting Hippolyta's naming her daughter as heir. Then one day, Etta rides to the south and west, straight as an arrow towards the conqueror Alexander and his army at Zadrakarta. Etta is besotted ('She's like a flower, and he's the sun'), but what draws her to the King of Asia? Eventually Hippolyta must return to her people, but Selene remains at Etta's side and travels with Alexander's army.

Selene finds solace in her loneliness, from her growing friendship (can it be more?) with an unusual Persian prince, Sisygambis' son Nabu-rimanni, 'the odd one ... the idler, the scholar'. And her visions grow stronger. Eventually it's time for Selene to return to her own people, bringing them a new queen, Penthesilea. They have to fight for her kingdom, but finally Selene's long exile ends. After 'so much strangeness, so much sorrow, so much suffering' she wins a 'rather astonishing joy'.

As always, Judith Tarr rewrites legend, with her own unique blend of magic, warfare, and high romance. She has been high on my must read author list for many years now, and I thoroughly enjoyed Queen of the Amazons.

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