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Bring Down the Sun    by Judith Tarr order for
Bring Down the Sun
by Judith Tarr
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Judith Tarr writes wonderful romantic fantasy, such as her excellent Avaryan series, Kingdom of the Grail (the tale of Roland) and Queen of the Amazons (about Alexander's relationship with Hippolyta). Now, in Bring Down the Sun, she again rewrites legend to tell the tale of Polyxena, who grew up a princess of Epiros, wedded Philip of Macedon, and gave birth to the boy who became Alexander the Great and conquered a large portion of the world.

Though a princess, beautiful, and a descendant of Achilles, Polyxena is raised as an acolyte of the Mother goddess under the guidance of her aunt Nikandra, who has always suppressed her niece's powerful magic 'for the girl's own good, and for everyone else's, too.' Nikandra foresees - and fears - the coming of the end of the Mother's rule, which has long been fading. But, as she comes of age, it's clear that this headstrong young woman is not meant for a cloistered life. She wants a man worthy of her, dreams of a king, makes dangerous magic - and shakes the earth.

Following the omens, the royal family sends Polyxena to the Mysteries on Samothrace, 'rites of the deep earth and the wine's ecstacy', where she enacts the rite with Philip of Macedon. He calls her Myrtale (crowned one) and seeks to have her as one of his wives, though he fears the distraction she presents to him. (Strong in spirit, Myrtale asks Philip, 'Are men so weak that women's strength is a threat to them?') Accompanying Philip's Embassy is Erynna, a witch of Thessaly (where witches have an evil reputation) who teaches Myrtale but plans to exploit her powerful talent.

After she becomes pregnant with Philip's child, Myrtale has visions of his future, while her aunt warns her of foreseeing 'the sun come down and the world end in fire.' As the baby grows inside her, Thessaly's witches work ill magic, sowing shadows and unpleasant rumors against the queen in Macedon. Myrtale is forced to take the battle to them, to stop them once and for all from enslaving her child to their will. When Alexander is born, knowing of the hard fight that she fought and won, Philip renames his wife Olympias.

It was harder than usual this time to connect with this heroine and I found her story somewhat disjointed. Nevertheless I enjoy anything that Judith Tarr writes, and recommend Bring Down the Sun to you as well worth the read.

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