The atmosphere surrounding the little boy vibrated with tension. He could not see the stifled anger and baffled desire, but he sensed their residue accumulating like dustballs in the corners of the fort. Unspoken recriminations crowded the silences; bitter glances were hurled like spears over small Setanta’s head.
When I first read this book I wrote the month and year inside the cover, so I know that I first read it in February 1994, but I’ve reread it plenty of times in the past 13 years. It has been one of my favourite books ever since. That might possibly be because it is based on the Irish legend of the Táin Bó Cúalnge, or Cattle-Raid of Cooley. The Táin is made up of a collection of stories, based around the heroes of the Red Branch, the warriors of Ulster, and especially Cúchulainn.
The Katherine of the title starts out this book as an orphan, raised by nuns, but heading off to the royal court at the whim of the queen. There she becomes betrothed to Hugh Swynford; she also meets the Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt. And it is John that she falls in love with, although at first he seems to dislike her.
Richard did not become frightened until darkness began to settle over the woods. In the fading light, the trees began to take on unfamiliar and menacing shapes.
We all know the myth of the “princes in the tower” and their evil uncle, Richard, who murdered them. Mainly because of Shakespeare’s play. This novel attempts to recreate the life of Richard of Gloucester, and the times in which he lived and died. And it does a great job of bringing the era to life. It also does an excellent job in dispelling many of the rumours about Richard and his rule. But more importantly than that Penman creates real characters that are entertaining and believable. The one huge problem with historical fiction, especially those novels written about real people is that you know how it the story is going to end.
I was neither a stranger in this territory, nor familiar with it. The last time I had passed this way, the route into the wilderness of forest and snow that was the northern land of Pohjola had been an open gorge, guarded by nothing more sinister than white foxes, chattering mink and dark-winged carrion birds.
suppose that you are thinking that a series entitled The Merlin Codex might be about the Merlin of the Arthurian legend. If so, and you are expecting Camelot to make an appearance in this book, you are in for a surprise. Yes, the main protagonist is Merlin, but he isn’t the character you might have expected. Instead, although very old he is also quite young. In appearance at least. And instead of serving or advising Kind Arthur he travels with Jason of the Greek myths. The book is set hundreds of years after the quest for the Golden Fleece, and the love affair with Medea and the resulting tragedy, but Jason is not dead. He has been kept in a sort of suspended non-life by the magic of his ship, the Argus, and now Merlin has returned to bring him back to life. Merlin, you see, has discovered that Medea did not actually kill her two sons.