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The Beggar Queen    by Lloyd Alexander order for
Beggar Queen
by Lloyd Alexander
Order:  USA  Can
Firebird, 2002 (1984)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This third and final volume of Lloyd Alexander's thrilling Westmark trilogy is just as good as its predecessors. In The Kestrel, Theo, Mickle and others fought and sacrificed to win peace with Regia, but malcontents remain on both sides of the border.

Connie's uncle Conrad conspires with the series' nemesis Cabbarus, and many of the old guard in Westmark resent the liberal policies of their Beggar Queen, as indeed does the firebrand Justin who thinks they don't go far enough. Haunted by old memories, Justin's goal is to do away with the monarchy entirely.

Theo wants 'to go on picnics with Mickle', to forget his actions as the bloodthirsty resistance leader The Kestrel, 'a butcher mistaken for a hero', and simply to be happy. Mickle, who held together Westmark's armies 'with the brain of a chess player and the tongue of a cavalry sergeant' steals time from her duties to be with Theo.

Then Cabbarus strikes and our hero and heroine go underground once more, this time in the capital of Marianstat. Florian and Justin together force Theo to resurrect Colonel Kestrel. Mickle, understanding his fears of what he was and did in that role, only asks him to 'Be what you are.'

Again there are many sacrifices. War is not pretty, friends die, and Theo's feelings of guilt drive him into reckless actions. There are captures and escapes, and many individual acts of heroism. Old friends come and go in the tale. Las Bombas has a key role, as does Florian. Connie comes into his kingship and the water rats come of age.

The author's dedication is to 'the young, who are their own best hope for the future', and finally that is also the best hope of the realm of Westmark. Don't miss this series; it's great fantasy that also raises questions about resistance and war that will stay with you.

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