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Pride of Kings    by Judith Tarr order for
Pride of Kings
by Judith Tarr
Order:  USA  Can
Roc, 2001 (2001)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Tarr takes on the Plantaganets in Pride of Kings, another excellent re-telling of hystory and myth, in which she transforms our view of Prince John from villain to (almost) hero. In this world, countries have guardian spirits, and magical 'walls of air'. Richard, King of England, has been offered and has refused the kingship of the hidden realm. This leaves Britain vulnerable to wild magic and invasion.

Arslan resides in the castle of his elder half-brother (and reluctant host) in Anjou with his Seljuk servants and childhood friends Yusuf and Karim - the latter is really Kalila, disguised as a boy and she has a strong role in the tale. Arslan's mother was a spirit of fire, and he has lost his own heritage of Beausoleil after the fall of Jerusalem, during which his father was killed. In Anjou, Arslan is tasked by the horned king with a message for Britain's true ruler ... 'The walls of air have fallen; the gate of the worlds is broken.'

Soon afterwards Arslan meets John Lackland and accompanies him along the 'straight tracks' and through the Worldwood to take passage to Britain. There Arslan loses his heart to its youngest guardian, the powerful Eschiva, born to Morgana in the Summer Country. John is consecrated as king of Britain, but destined to be misunderstood and reviled, since the measures he must take to protect the realm are all too often perceived as treachery towards his crusader brother.

Tarr gives her readers high romance, sacrifice and magical adventure, along with a wonderful tolerance of different beliefs, that's very relevant today. As Arslan explains to a young priest, 'there's nothing evil about the infidels. They're men like us; they live and love as we do and worship one God. It's almost our God, and we share the same holy places - and there's the difficulty. We're too close, but not close enough at all.'

Judith Tarr has long been on my 'must read' list of fantasy authors. Pride of Kings is high entertainment from a master of the genre, one not to be missed.

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