THIS SCEPTER'D ISLE
Mercedes Lackey & Roberta Gellis

 


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Baen, February 2004
First in The Doubled Edge Series
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood
 
Fantasy, Sixteenth Century England
 
The family life of King Henry VIII was crucial to the direction of European development. To us, those changes look inevitable. At that time, such little things could have tipped the balance.
 
In THIS SCEPTER’D ISLE, one of those little things is a six year old boy, an illegitimate son of King Henry, named Harry. The Sidhe FarSeers, from the Elven worlds of Seleighe and Unseleighe (bright and dark magickers respectively) have scryed two possible futures. In one, a red-haired child of Henry VIII rules over a Golden Age. In the other, the red-haired child does not rule, and England is plunged into the black fires of the Inquisition. The Elven kingdom is empty and dead. At first it is not clear which red-haired child of Henry is the one who must come to the throne.
 
Elf prince Vidal Dhu, ruler of Unseleighe, sucks his power from the misery of others. An England in disorder and death would be a banquet for him. He orders his twin magickers Pasgen and Rhoslyn to bring the child to him. To counter them the FarSeers of Seleighe send Denoriel and Aleneil, twins who are half-brother and -sister to the dark twins, to find and protect the child and do anything necessary to bring about the vitality of the hoped-for Golden Age.
 
Denoriel’s search gets as far as six-year-old Harry, Duke of Richmond, whose charm grasps his heart beyond freeing. It is foreseen that Harry is not the future ruler, but his survival is essential to the life of the ruler-to-come. Denoriel has an ability, stronger than most Sidhe, to function in the mortal world with its cold iron and its lack of magical power sources. He must fight off attacks on Harry and help protect other important members of King Henry’s family from the Unseleighe twins, his own twisted brother and sister Pasgen and Rhoslyn.

The Elven world and its people, the Dark and Bright Courts and their schemes, and the emotional bonds that Denoriel forms in the mortal world, are all so vivid that they lived on in my mind long after I finished reading. Little is known about Harry compared to his well-documented legitimate siblings, so authors Mercedes Lackey and Roberta Gellis have been able to fill in the outline of his life with all the intrigues and magical doings to create a spellbinding story. Each of the Sidhe have their loves and loyalties, colorful as the world they live in. Their magical system is as intelligent and detailed as that in THRICE BOUND, another fantasy by Roberta Gellis. Their relationships with their animal companions are as warm as those in THE OATHBOUND, a Mercedes Lackey fantasy.

Mercedes Lackey has collaborated with quite a number of authors. From my reading of several of her books, single and co-authored, I have the impression that Lackey brings an emotional and literary richness to her writing partnerships, and benefits from the original plots of her partners. All of Roberta Gellis’s books show richness of writing, but I found a degree of emotional appeal in THIS SCEPTER’D ISLE that she has never matched before. 

To an already lucky reading year, I am adding THIS SCEPTER’D ISLE as a candidate for Favorite Fantasy Read. If you enjoy historical fantasy, do not miss it or its sequel, ILL MET BY MOONLIGHT.
 
February 2005 Review
Revised review Jan 2006
 
 

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