An Involuntary King

This is a tale of a fantastical Saxon kingdom in an England which so dis-unified that it is broken into a number of small kingdoms, some allied and some antagonistic to each other. The tale of the involuntary king of one of them, Críslicland, reads as a curious amalgam of a historical novel, in some places absolutely dripping with authentic 8th century atmosphere and detail –– and at other places almost a never-never land, splotched here and there with anachronisms, mostly to do with characters’ names. The explanation for this is a fairly simple one – the original stories of the matter of Crislicland were created by the then-teenaged author and a circle of friends years ago, and their creations, characters and adventures were colored by their various juvenile obsessions. Feeling that those aspects were to intimate a part of the resulting epic to dispense with, they have been retained… occasionally jarring though readers might find them to be.

It is a long and sprawling story, with many diversions and characters – heroic and villainous or something in between and a labyrinthine plot reminiscent of the Arthurian legends, of a time when a king was expected to take a personal lead in fighting wars as well as administering his kingdom. Lawrence, the title character, never expects to find that responsibility fallen on him. He is a younger son, barely old enough to serve his father and his older brother, the expected heir to the throne, in a relatively minor capacity. He is the ‘spare’ so to speak – but a turn of treachery brings him to a degree of authority that he did not expect. But he is a king’s son, and with some skills as a soldier and leader; and among his friends are those who will advise him, in his early uncertainty. Chief among those is the woman that he is betrothed to marry – who becomes one of his most loyal and fearless champions – Josephine, his queen and mother of his own children. These characters and handful of others, like the pair of wandering Irish bards are the most strongly drawn; no wonder, for these were the ones who developed early on, whom the writer and her circle have brought to the point of being old and familiar friends, especially the ambiguous character of the foreign mercenary who loves the one and hates the other, allies himself with Lawrence’s enemies… and yet proves to be a trusty friend to Josephine.

For all of this, only two characters are historical people – all the rest are creations. It is a satisfactory read, overall; but as noted, anachronistic names for certain characters did detract somewhat from the 8th-century atmosphere.

An Involuntary King is available from Amazon.com. More about the 8th century generally, and other writings are at the authors websites, Shieldwall Books and Medieval Novels.

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book “To Truckee’s Trail” is available here. Her next project, “The Adelsverein Trilogy: The Gathering, The Sowing, and The Harvesting” – all debut this week. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com.

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