Leopard In Exile

Written by Andre Norton Rosemary Edghill
Review by Steve Lewis

The divergence in time creating this alternate-history fantasy (second in a series) occurs at the death of the English king, Charles II. To prevent our world’s James II from taking the throne, Charles reveals a legitimate heir, James, Duke of Monmouth, who becomes Charles III. Other changes follow. The American Revolution has never happened, and Napoleon has become an even more ruthless military dictator. When the rightful French king, now exiled in the Americas, disappears, then later his wife, it falls upon the Duchess of Wessex to find them, with the Duke following behind.

Thus four different trails are followed, in grand pulp fashion. Overriding everything is a search for the Holy Grail, a key to unimaginable power — the Church has become weaker, and magic now exists. The Governor of Louisianne, the Marquis de Sade, has lofty goals of his own.

It’s quite a story. It’s also very bloody, with an unexpected, unpleasant edge. The prologue is especially nasty, with a detailed description of de Sade removing the living heart from a young sacrificial nun. The excruciatingly repulsive finale is equally offensive. Scenes like these are not for the squeamish. They’re also beneath the authors’ talents.