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The King's Peace    by Jo Walton order for
King's Peace
by Jo Walton
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2000 (2000)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The King's Peace is essentially an alternate world Camelot story, set on the island of Tir Tanagiri. In it we follow the fortunes of one of the realm's great warriors, Sulien ap Gwien, who happens to be a woman. The Roman equivalents are the Vinca and the Saxon invaders become the Jarnish raiders. Urdo has an evil half sister, the sorceress Queen Morwen of Angas, and she has a son Morthu, who will work to undo all that Urdo builds. There is magic in the land and in its old gods, slowly being supplanted by the new religion of the White God.

After a raid, in which the seventeen year old Sulien suffers greatly, she is sent to King Urdo to ask for help for her family and their people of Derwen. She and her Greathorse Apple stay at Caer Tanaga to join Urdo's Ala, his personal force of knights. Ap Gwien becomes a key figure in Urdo's ongoing campaigns to unite the kingdom and achieve the King's Peace, and a good friend to the king himself.

In Sulien, Walton has given us a fascinating heroine in the style of Mary Gentle's Ash or Alison Spedding's Aleizon Ailix Ayndra. Sulian lives for war, the companionship of her fellow warriors, and Urdo's goal of unification of Tir Tanagiri into a peaceful and just realm. We see her evolve in maturity and relationships (in particular with her mother and her own child), and to learn to forego her own just vengeance for the king's dream of peace.

Though I have grown tired of Camelot rewrites (it's hard to do anything original) this alternate version is well forged and intriguing. It holds the reader's interest both for its similarities to, and its differences from, Arthur's story. Urdo is a worthy king, building a tolerant and just kingdom, and Sulien a wonderful warrior heroine. Enjoy The King's Peace, but be warned that its ending will leave you impatient for the sequel.

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