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Judith Tarr

Judith Tarr(1955- )
Judith Tarr earned a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies from Yale University and writes mainly mainstream and historical fantasies. She also writes romantic fantasy under the names Caitlin Brennan (Harlequin) and Kathleen Bryan (Tor). Read excerpts of her work as Caitlin Brennan here. And here is Judith Tarr’s website.

The Isle of Glass: A derivative novel done well

The Isle of Glass by Judith Tarr

I’ve gone back and forth on this text quite a bit, unsure how generous I’m willing to be. The facts are these: Judith Tarr’s prose is better than expected, the story flows well, and the pacing is great, but on the other hand, this is not a book that beyond its style really seems to have a lot to do. The Isle of Glass is the kind of novel that readers will finish with a nod and a shrug rather than a smile or tears.

The plot is scanty and rather unambitious. Alfred, or “Alf,” the protagonist, is one of the Fair Folk raised as a monk, which of course means that he’s righteous, sheltered, and troubled by his heritage. He’s the handsome naïf trope played straight as an arrow. One day, a wounded knight of the Fairies arrives with a mission to prevent a war, and the unassuming Alf is drafted as messenger and king-manipulator supreme, leaving his qu... Read More

The Hall of the Mountain King: Tarr’s style elevates this standard epic fantasy

The Hall of the Mountain King by Judith Tarr

Every day, for years, the King of Ianon has stood on his castle’s battlements, hoping to see his daughter coming home. He is old and she is his heir. When someone finally arrives, the king is told that his daughter is dead, but she had a son, Mirain, whose father is the god Avaryan. The grieving king opens his heart to this unknown grandson, but there are others who are not pleased with the new development — especially the king’s concubine and her son Moranden, the king’s bastard and a great warrior. Stuck in the middle is Vadin, a boy who’s assigned to be Mirain’s squire. It is Vadin who has the best vantage point and is able to witness the struggles, trials, and triumphs of two young men who want to be king.

The Hall of the Mountain King, first published in 1986, is the first in Judith Tarr’s AVARYAN RISING trilogy. You can tell by my description that it’s hig... Read More

The Lady of Han-Gilen: Great audio performance, boring story

The Lady of Han-Gilen by Judith Tarr

The Lady of Han-Gilen is the second novel in Judith Tarr’s AVARYAN saga. In the first book, The Hall of the Mountain King, we met Mirain, supposedly the son of the sun god Avaryan and a human princess. Mirain appeared in Ianon, where his grandfather rules, became his heir, and fought for control of the kingdom. The story wasn’t particularly original, but I enjoyed Tarr’s style and Jonathan Davis’s audio performance.

This second installment, which can stand alone fairly well, takes place several  years later and focuses on a new character: Princess Elian of Han-Gilen, foster sister of Mirain. Red-haired and independently-minded, Elian has left a trail of spurned suitors in her wake, but now she’s getting older and feeling the pressure to marry. When she finally meets a man who is good enough to match her in wits and ... Read More

A Fall of Princes: So much drama!

A Fall of Princes by Judith Tarr

In this third novel of Judith Tarr’s AVARYAN RISING trilogy (which probably could stand alone), it’s been 15 years since the events of the previous book, The Lady of Han-Gilen. Mirain and Elian now have a teenage son named Saraven who is heir to the throne of his country. One day Saraven saves the life of Hirel, the son of the king of a neighboring kingdom. At first they have nothing in common and even despise each other, but after enduring a series of accidental adventures which include being captured and escaping a few times, the boys eventually overcome their prejudices and become friends. When they make several unsuccessful attempts to stop their fathers from destroying each others’ kingdoms, they end up resorting to a bizarre solution that shocks everybody (including me). As young leaders, they make a sacrifice to save their people, but the path they choose tu... Read More

SHORTS: Yap, Howey, Livingston, Sullivan, Smith, Tarr

There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. We'll put our favorites at the top.

The Oiran's Song" by Isabel Yap (2015, free at Uncanny Magazine)

"The Oiran's Song" is the tale of a young man who is sold into service with a traveling group of Japanese soldiers; this is a better fate than what befell his younger brother. It's also the tale of a young woman who entertains soldiers through various methods, traveling with them for as long as her services are required. It's also about human cruelty and kindness. It's about oni and snow and blood and vengeance and the fragility of hope. The brutality of war and human depravity are ever-present, but Yap never victimizes her characters: the terrible things which happen to ... Read More

Out of Avalon: An Anthology of Old Magic and New Myths

Out of Avalon: An Anthology of Old Magic and New Myths by Jennifer Roberson

Out of Avalon: An Anthology of Old Magic and New Myths is an anthology for everyone who loves re-takes on the Arthurian legends, and especially those readers who loved The Mists of Avalon and are seeking more of the same sort of retellings, laced with gender politics, religious issues, and romance.

As in all anthologies, some of the stories are to my taste, some aren't, and there is probably something for everyone. In my opinion, the stunner of the bunch is Rosemary Edghill's "Prince of Exiles." Set among bloodthirsty warlords rather than knights-n-ladies, it is narrated by Ator (Arthur)'s bitter illegitimate son, as he unfolds his intricate plan for revenge against his father. It's a darkly engrossing story until you get to the l... Read More

More fantasy novels by Judith Tarr

Alamut — (1989-1991) Publisher: Prince Aidan, determined to avenge the murder of his nephew, finds himself falling in love with his nephew’s killer, a powerful sorceress, the Lady Morgiana.

Judith Tarr book reviews 1. Alamut 2. The Dagger and the CrossJudith Tarr book reviews 1. Alamut 2. The Dagger and the Cross

Alexander the Great — (1993-2008) Historical fantasies about Alexander the Great.

Judith Tarr Queen of the Amazons reviewbook review Judith Tarr Bring Down the Sun: Alexander the Great

Epona — (1998-2001) Publisher: The saga of Sarama, the beautiful, headstrong young priestess of a nomadic warrior band. Her majestic white horse is the earthly incarnation of the goddess Epona; her fateful odyssey to a great city where women still rule, unleashes an epic clash of cultures that changes the course of history.

Judith Tarr Epona book reviews 1. White Mare's Daughter 2. The Shepherd Kings 3. Lady of Horses 4. Daughter of LirJudith Tarr Epona book reviews 1. White Mare's Daughter 2. The Shepherd Kings 3. Lady of Horses 4. Daughter of LirJudith Tarr Epona book reviews 1. White Mare's Daughter 2. The Shepherd Kings 3. Lady of Horses 4. Daughter of LirJudith Tarr Epona book reviews 1. White Mare's Daughter 2. The Shepherd Kings 3. Lady of Horses 4. Daughter of Lir

Richard Lionheart — (2001-2003) Publisher: At his corronation as the new king of England, Richard the Lionheart, lured by dreams of glory and driven by faith, makes a fateful choice between a mortal crown and a magical one and embarks on a Crusade to free Jerusalem from the infidels, leaving behind a kingdom threatened by beings wielding the powers of dark magic.

Judith Tarr Richard the Lionheart 1. Pride of Kings 2. Devil's Bargain 3. House of WarJudith Tarr Richard the Lionheart 1. Pride of Kings 2. Devil's Bargain 3. House of WarJudith Tarr Richard the Lionheart 1. Pride of Kings 2. Devil's Bargain 3. House of War

William the Conqueror — (2004-2005) Publisher: For 500 years the Saxons ruled England, crushing the ancient powers. But a wave of change approaches. Across the Channel in Normandy, William is born — the bastard son of a duke and a magical woman of Druid descent. As he grows to manhood, William’s battle skills earn him respect, but his temper and disregard for his innate magical abilities hold him back. He needs a teacher, whether he wants one or not, and finds one in the beautiful French noblewoman Mathilda. But William is resistant to the very idea of magic, and unless he can accept Mathilda’s help — and her love — his imperfectly controlled abilities may destroy him. In an epic battle that spans worlds and ages, magical forces and earthbound armies will be drawn together by William as he fights to achieve his destiny — and reign as King of England.

William The Conqueror Judith Tarr book reviews 1. Rite of ConquestWilliam The Conqueror Judith Tarr book reviews 1. Rite of Conquest

book review Judith Tarr Ars Magica

Ars Magica — (1989) Publisher: Judith Tarr’s Ars Magica is wonderful tale of a young monk in the 10th Century who learns the secrets of magic while rising in power and influence within the medieval Church. The mixture of fact (the main characters are almost all versions of real people) and fantasy is well-developed, and the author’s essay on the historical basis of her work is informative and fascinating.

Judith Tarr book reviews A Wind in Cairo Throne of Isis Pillar of Fire King and Goddess

A Wind in Cairo — (1989) Publisher: A medieval historical fantasy. THE PRINCE: Spoiled, reckless, heedless of any wants or needs but his own, sentenced to a terrible fate for his sins against man, woman, and God. THE STALLION: Equally spoiled, equally reckless, bound until death to a bitter servitude. THE TURK’S HEIR: Fiercest of rivals, most devoted of enemies, whose armor hides a secret. Come into the world of the Arabian Nights, where magic and mystery meet; where justice lays a sinner low, and the magic of the heart turns hate to love.Includes the full text of the original Bantam edition, slightly revised, with a new introduction and a bonus short story.

book review Judith Tarr His Majesty's Elephant

His Majesty’s Elephant — (1993) Young adult. Publisher: Charlemagne’s daughter must call on her own magic and the power of a young Breton and a special elephant to save her father from a deadly Byzantine spell.

Judith Tarr Kingdom of the GrailKingdom of the Grail — (2000) Publisher: Centuries following the fall of Camelot and the disappearance of King Arthur, Roland, a descendant of Merlin, vows to free the imprisoned wizard and resumes the quest for the Holy Grail, taking on one of Arthur’s historic enemies in the process.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsLiving in Trees — (2012) Publisher: From the author of the classic Hound and the Falcon trilogy (The Isle of Glass, The Golden Horn, and The Hounds of God) and the World Fantasy Award nominee Lord of the Two Lands, for the first time in four years, a new, original, and never before published title–and it is very special indeed: Three lives. Three worlds. Three times. Three young women, past, present, and future, come together to solve an age-old mystery and save a world. Meredith has the summer all planned. She’ll hang out with her friends, ride her horse, and spend time with her mom, who is recovering from cancer. Then her mom drops a bomb: she’s sending Meredith to Egypt to dig up mummies with her aunt the archaeologist. Meredith doesn’t want to go. At all. But there are more forces at work than a sixteenth-birthday present she doesn’t want and a summer she didn’t plan – and a greater adventure than she could ever have imagined. Meru lives in a far-future Earth, where disease has been eliminated and humans travel through the stars in living ships. Meru and her friend Yoshi been accepted into the school for starpilots, but just as they’re about to leave, a strange message from Meru’s mother drives Meru away from her home and family and sends her on a journey to find her mother and save the people of Earth from a terrible plague. Meritre is a singer in the Temple of Amon in ancient Egypt. Her people have survived a devastating plague, but Meritre is foresighted, and what she sees is terrifying. As she tries to find a magical spell that will keep her family and friends safe, the gods take one last life – and that life, and death, resonate through Meredith and Meru to the end of time.


By Judith Tarr & Harry Turtledove

book review Judith Tarr Harry Turtledove Household GodsHousehold Gods — (1999) Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove. Publisher: Nicole Gunther-Perrin is a modern young professional, proud of her legal skills but weary of the daily grind, of childcare, and of sexist coworkers and her deadbeat ex-husband. Then after one exceptionally awful day, she awakens to find herself in a different life, that of a widowed tavernkeeper on the Roman frontier around A.D. 170. Delighted at first, she quickly begins to realize that her new world is as complicated as her old one. Violence, dirt, and pain are everywhere; slavery is commonplace, gladiators kill for sport, and drunkenness is taken for granted. Yet, somehow, people manage to face life everyday with humor and goodwill.No quitter, Nicole manages to adapt, despite endless worry about the fate of her children “back” in the twentieth century. Then plague sweeps through Carnuntum, followed by brutal war. Amidst pain and loss on a level she had never imagined, Nicole must find reserved of the sort of strength she had never known.