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"The White Raven" by Diana Paxson

I had been wanting to read some of Diana Paxson's novels since I heard about her heavy involvement with Norse religion. I found "The White Raven" in the Red Cross here. It's a Celtic novel, not a Norse one, a retelling of Tristan and Iseult, or as they are called here Drustan and Esseilte. She's an Irish princess, he a British prince. You probably know the bare bones of the story, about the accidentally shared love potion that binds their fates forever.

Paxson is sister-in-law to the late Marion Zimmer Bradley and had input on "Mists of Avalon". "Mists" is the superior book, although Paxson refrains from the merciless Christian-bashing that Zimmer Bradley indulged in. However her writing here does not have the sweep or irresistible forward momentum of "Mists". That being said, this wouldn't be a problem if there were a single sympathetic central character in the story. Esseilte is a love song-besotten princess of the Sansa Stark mold. The narrator is her cousin, the half-British girl Branwen, the White Raven of the title. Esseilte is spoiled and disloyal, Branwen a longsuffering doormat, and Drustan a good-natured traitor. I felt bad for the cuckolded king, Marc'h, who was the only person I felt at all agreeable.

It's well written and the cultures easily to visualize but I wish I could have visited medieval Britain with some better company.

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kishiriadgr
Aug. 15th, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)
Heard of it, haven't read it.
wombat_socho
Aug. 16th, 2009 02:07 pm (UTC)
It's one of the few books set in a medieval period that actually gets the miserable squalor of the period right. Also, one hell of a great story, which one tends to expect from Willis. :)

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