fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Kathleen Bryan Judith Tarr The War of the Rose 1. The Serpent and the RoseThe Serpent and the Rose by Kathleen Bryan

Averil is the daughter of a duke of Lys, trained from childhood in the magical arts on the Ladies’ Isle. Gereint is a fatherless farmboy who possesses a powerful, untamed streak of wild magic. As the sinister king of Lys and his advisor, both practioners of dark magic, unleash a plot to remove the realm’s nobles and awaken an ancient evil, Averil is summoned back to the mainland, while Gereint chases after a band of Knights of the Rose, hoping that their Order can train him. In time, Averil and Gereint find themselves together as unlikely allies and, perhaps, the only hope of both their realm and world.

As is obvious from that brief summary (and its faint echoes of Star Wars, among other tales), there is little new in The Serpent and the Rose, the first book of The War of the Rose trilogy by Kathleen Bryan (a penname of Judith Tarr). Still, the author’s prose is almost always clean and even elegant, and her creation of an alternate Europe and a magical system centering on the use of glass are deft accomplishments. And even though little — especially the two main characters — was new or surprising in the first half of the book, I enjoyed the tale’s unfolding. However, the plot loses focus and momentum in the second half, and the characters’ choices make little sense except to prop up the collapsing plot. The ending of the book on a weak anti-climax, in preparation for the next book, was particularly disappointing. Other weaknesses include the lack of characterization of (or motive for) the villains and too many instances where seemingly important events or world-features (e.g. the orders besides the Knights) were glossed over or unexplained. (It is worth noting that one positive for many readers may be the lack of profanity and graphic violence or sex.)

Recommended as a library loan only for fans of high medieval fantasy, many of whom may enjoy this book. Three unremarkable stars.

The War of the Rose — (2007-2009) Publisher: The beautiful Averil is heir to the Duchy of Quitaine, in the Kingdom of Lys. She is a powerful mage, trained by the Ladies of the Isle, but when her father calls her home to take up her duties, she must leave that life behind. In her city of Fontevrai, she meets Gereint, raised as a common villager but greatly gifted in magic, a novice of the magical order of the Knights of the Rose. The Knights and their sister order, the Ladies of the Isle, defend a great secret: the means and location of the Serpents imprisonment a thousand years ago by the Young God in whose name their order was founded. Quitaine is under subtle attack by the King of Lys, who has secretly become an adept of the hidden order of the Serpent, and he will let nothing and no one stand in the way of his quest to discover how to free his God. But the Knights of the Rose and the Ladies of the Isle believe that if the Serpent is freed, the world will be enslaved to chaos: humanity will destroy itself, and all that man has made will be corrupted. The War of the Rose and Serpent has begun again, after a thousand years.

Kathleen Bryan (Judith Tarr) The War of the Rose 1. The Serpent and the Rose 2. The Golden Rose 3. The Last Paladin Kathleen Bryan (Judith Tarr) The War of the Rose 1. The Serpent and the Rose 2. The Golden Rose 3. The Last PaladinKathleen Bryan (Judith Tarr) The War of the Rose 1. The Serpent and the Rose 2. The Golden Rose 3. The Last Paladin


  • Rob Rhodes

    ROB RHODES was graduated from The University of the South and The Tulane University School of Law and currently works as a government attorney. He has published several short stories and is a co-author of the essay “Sword and Sorcery Fiction,” published in Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading. In 2008, Rob was named a Finalist in The L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. Rob retired from FanLit in September 2010 after more than 3 years at FanLit. He still reviews books and conducts interviews for us occasionally. You can read his latest news at Rob's blog.

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