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King's Blood    by Judith Tarr order for
King's Blood
by Judith Tarr
Order:  USA  Can
Roc, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

King's Blood is a sequel to Rite of Conquest, continuing Judith Tarr's highly romantic historical fantasy retelling of the story of William the Conqueror and his heirs. It deals with William's death, and the consequences of his son Red William's refusal to accept magic, thus imperilling the old powers of Britain once more.

The story's heroine is the delightful, half Gael half Saxon, Princess Edith of Scotland - 'born in two worlds, the world of the Old Things and the world of cold iron.' Her mother, Queen Margaret, tells her that she is to be offered to God, and sends Edith to her formidable aunt Christina's abbey in England. Guiding her on her journey, and during her years as a novice, is William's magical daughter Cecilia, who is a 'Guardian of the Isle' and also mistress of novices at the abbey. Edith finds her own escape into the Otherworld 'where roses grew, white as snow and red as blood' and where she meets the puca.

William dies, Red William inherits England and Robert gets Normandy. Handsome Prince Henry, who has inherited his parents' magic, but little else, is told by his father that 'You'll get more than either of them in the end.' Edith's father, King Malcolm, rescues her from the abbey, but then goes to war with England and is lost to the Wild Hunt, to his daughter's dismay and grief. Both parents dead, she takes refuge with the Lady of the Lake and learns from her. At Beltane, she and Henry come together. He, who has always loved easily, is in awe of her beauty and magic, and can love no other woman again. But, as their romance develops, so does the land's growing need for a sacrifice, of royal blood.

I enjoyed this episode more than the previous, because the period of history was less constrained by familiarity, and the author presents particularly engaging leads. In King's Blood, Princess Edith of Scotland rejects her mother's plans for her and finds her own destiny, while Prince Henry does what is needed to save a kingdom.

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