starlady: (compass)
Wein, Elizabeth E. The Sunbird. New York: Firebird Books, 2006. [2004]

I've really enjoyed the first two books in this sequence, but I told myself that I had to read this one before I could even think of reading Code Name Verity, Wein's newest and completely different novel that will hopefully get these ones some renewed attention and which I am told is fantastic.

The Sunbird, though, continues Wein's Aksumite Arthuriana sequence, which she is now calling The Lion Hunters, a few years after A Coalition of Lions left off, with the viewpoint switching to Telemakos, Medraut's son and Goewin's nephew. The Plague of Justinian, a pandemic that originated in China and struck most of Europe and Asia and that is now thought to have been a strain of Y. pestis known, appropriately enough, as Antiqua, is on the march, and to save Aksum Goewin proposes a quarantine. The only problem is that someone is found out to be breaking it, and Telemakos is, willingly, sent by Goewin and the emperor to find out whom.

Spoilers are short but intense )
starlady: "I can hear the sound of empires falling." (burning empires)
Wein, Elizabeth E. A Coalition of Lions. New York: Firebird Books, 2003.

[personal profile] oyceter commented to me that these books remind her quite a lot of Megan Whalen Turner's Eugenides books, and I unequivocally agree; consider that a recommendation. That is just about all the reaction--and praise--that I can in good conscience leave outside of a spoiler cut.

Spoilers are prey for lions )
starlady: King Edmund the Just of Narnia, called the King of Evening & the King of Shadows (it's king actually)
Wein, Elizabeth E. The Winter Prince. New York: Baen Books, 1993.

I am one of those people who likes to begin at the beginning (I am also one of those people who, nine times out of 10, will flip to the end of the book within the first 20 pages, read the end, and then go back and read the book straight through). I am also one of those people who does not automatically love one of the standard tropes of fantasy, namely Arthuriana. I've never read T.H. White or Malory, and I have no intention of doing so at this point; ironically, however, I've read Stephen R. Lawhead and T.A. Barron and Susan Cooper, and I'm quite happy to read Arthuriana if it comes recommended or is by an author I've already read and enjoyed. All of which is a way of saying, I read this book primarily because I'm heard awesome things about its sequelae/companions, in which the action shifts from Britain in early late antiquity to 6thC Ethiopia. But this book turned out to be excellent in and of itself.

The Winter Prince is narrated by Medraut, the eldest and illegitimate son of Artos, high king of Britain, in the form of a letter to his mother, Artos' sister Morgause, the Queen of the Orcades. The book describes the events of the approximately 2.5 years after Medraut's return to his father's court, in which he saves the life of Artos' legitimate son and heir Lleu and develops an uneasy friendship with Lleu and his twin sister Goewin and struggles to decide who he is and will be, and how and whether to free himself from the bonds his mother has laid on his soul.

Medraut is a calm narrator, but the dark waters of the book run deep, and after a while I realized that my heart was quietly breaking for him. It would be spoilery if I were to articulate why, but I have to say, this was an excellent book. Wein's late antique setting is believable, and her characters finely etched; there's no Lancelot analogue in this story, for instance, and Ginevra is a calm, competent cartographer, while Goewin is probably a better candidate for the throne than Lleu, and she knows it, and fears her aunt's fate, but is loyal all the same. Indeed, the tragedy of Camelot--Camlan, in this version--seems all the greater for the fact that, could the family but trust each other, they have a surfeit of able rulers (with the possible exception of Lleu, who actually now that I think about it reminds me very slightly of Bran Davies, though it's Medraut who has Bran's coloring). Are all tragedies familial, or only the great ones? In any event, I'm looking forward to the next book, A Coalition of Lions, very much.

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