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    KING'S PEACE by Jo Walton

    TOR, Tom Doherty Associates, October 2000

    Sulien ap Gwien is attacked and raped by Jarnish raiders. She devotes the rest of her life to the King who fights the Jarnish, but who hopes to make peace. A peace where all men and women may live under the gods of their choice, subject to the laws of their rulers but also to the greater laws of the high king. Achieving the King’s Peace is difficult enough. The Jarnish occupy more and more of the land and not enough of the Tanagiri remain to hold and farm the land. Keeping it once the victory is won will be even more difficult. Yet Sulien lives for nothing else.

    In KING’S PEACE, Jo Walton (see more reviews of novels by Walton) has re-created the Arthurian legend with an overlay of magic. Gods speak through the land, supporting those who are truly heir to the land and opposing those who would steal it. Yet the White God (counterpart to Christianity) claims rule over all. The Jarnish have their own gods--gods who interfere in Sulien’s life by bringing her a child even when she doesn’t wish for one. The Jarnish reflect the Saxon invaders who overran the post-Roman British/Welsh kingdoms, and the Vincans the Romans. The mix of mythology, history, and original composition makes for an interesting blend of the familiar and the new. Sulien is sympathetic, initially as a victim, then as a hero who fights for the King and his peace.

    Jo Walton has chosen to present the novel as a retrospective from an aging Sulien. This device, accompanied by occasionally archaic and heavy English, creates a sense of distance between the events and the reader. Still, Walton plays on the basic human emotions to bring Sulien to life. As a first novel, KING’S PEACE is a fine achievement and promises much more for the future.

    Three Stars

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