In this sequel to Rite of Conquest, the talented Judith Tarr follows the saga of the brood of William the Conqueror (who dies early, and grotesquely, in this second installment). Of William’s three sons, the one least able to rule, and the one who most wants to rule – and in his own way – is his eldest, “Red William.” Among William and Mathilda’s children, William is the one whose distaste for and rejection of magic, a crucial part of his parents’ legacy, plays a critical part in his reign. On the other hand, Henry, the youngest of the three and the one who is the least “regal,” has a deep and abiding understanding of and respect for the magic that permeates the land. While William embraces his life of luxury and pleasure, Henry sees the land weakening and beginning to die. Only the blood of a king – the greatest sacrifice – will heal the land.
Tarr is a magician. Yes, we all know the historical accounts of William Rufus and his “accident” in the forest, and the passing of the crown to Henry I upon William’s untimely death, but Tarr tells the story in such a personal, fantastical way that I forgot how embellished Tarr’s history is.
This is a worthy sequel to Rite of Conquest. Although this book can stand alone, I personally believe that it’s best read after its predecessor for the flavor, the texture, and the sheer flights of fancy and imagination that are truly hallmarks of a Tarr historical fantasy novel.