Saturday, August 16, 2014

Review: Guardian of the Balance by Irene Radford

I received this book for review from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.  I wasn't sure about it, didn't know if I would like it or not, since I kind of hate the cover.  But it was an ebook, so I really didn't have to look at the cover too much.  I started it on the way back from a business trip to St. Louis and soon found that I couldn't put it down.

The book covers the life of Arylwren, daughter of The Merlin.  Yes, that Merlin, sorcerer and advisor to Arthur, he of the Round Table.  The book is the first in a series called Merlin's Descendants.  I have not yet read Marion Zimmer Bradley's iconic series, and what little I know of Arthur is from childhood stories and maybe a little from my humanities classes in college (although I don't think we covered much about King Arthur).  Wren, as Merlin's daughter is known, grew up with Arthur, then known as Curyll, and not yet realized as the future king of Britain.  She helps Curyll overcome his stuttering, preparing him for leading men in battle and guiding the whole country as king.  She herself is a powerful sorceress, and she uses her magic to heal others, rather than to control.  Wren battles against Morgaine, a dark sorceress in her own right, for control of the realm.  Will she succeed, or will Morgaine and her minions take over Britain, wielding their power for evil?

To caution the squeamish:  there are some triggers in this book - the females are VERY young when wed; there are a few characters who engage in incest, and it is NOT skimmed over; there are many references to dark magic and demonic entities; and Wren is the victim of domestic violence at least twice.  If any of the above give you pause, this book is not for you.

I, however, do not squick easily.  So I LOVED it.  I really didn't anticipate how much I would enjoy it.  And I was more than pleasantly surprised.  Recommended for fans of medieval literature, of the King Arthur tales specifically, and anyone who likes books with a strong heroine.  I was sad that Wren could never be with her true love, but I did enjoy her healing ability and the other ways in which her life was fulfilling.  Five out of five Whatevers.