Pride of Kings

Written by Judith Tarr
Review by Kelly Cannon

An intriguing historical fantasy sheds a refreshing new light on the English king deemed so evil that no subsequent king should ever bear his name. In 1189, John Lackland has been exiled by his brother Richard the Lionheart, newly crowned King of England. But in Judith Tarr’s alternate — and perhaps more accurately representative — history, John is England’s true king, in the age-old, supernatural sense. He alone among his siblings was born on English soil, and he loves it best. He is destined to save the land his elder brother has deserted in order to pursue mortal glory in the Holy Land.

Key to Prince John’s achieving his vital goal is Arslan, a strapping youth born of fire and man in the mysterious lands to the east. It is Arslan to whom John’s destiny is first revealed, Arslan who sets John upon the path to its fulfillment. A long-dead English bishop appears to John and explains that if he accepts the burden being imposed upon him, he will be vilified and called a usurper, but John’s love for England demands that he carry out this vital task despite personal consequences.

Tarr brings us an inventive, thought-provoking fantasy with a thorough grounding in English history. Pride of Kings takes late twelfth-century Europe, with its unique mindset, attitudes and prejudices, and adds otherworldly characters and magical twists. The effect is epic.