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    KNIGHT OR KNAVE by Andre Norton and Sasha Miller

    VOLUME TWO OF THE CYCLE OF OAK, YEW, ASH, AND ROWAN THE BOOK OF THE OAK

    June, 2001

    In this sequel to TO THE KING A DAUGHTER (see our review), Andre Norton (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by this author) and Sasha Miller tell the story of the adult Ashen. Queen Ysa continues to control the rings of power and the kingdom. Florian is now king, but effectively powerless although evil. To prevent her from being used as a center for dissent in the Kingdom, Ysa determines that Ashen must marry. Fortunately, Sea Raider Obern is more than anxious to marry her and Ashen is willing, if uncertain that this is the great love of her life.

    Obernís son Rohan becomes the second major protagonist in the series. Beginning as a child, he grows to manhood under Ashenís care as well as the rough teachings of his grandfather. Although Ashen has fled the court, Rohan must enter it, discover the intrigue and evil that lapps at its strength, even while Ysa tries to unite the nation to confront the evil descending from the North.

    In my review of TO THE KING A DAUGHTER, I gave Grande Dame Andre Norton the benefit of the doubt that the novel was only an introduction. Now, however, we are two books into the series and have still to develop a coherent plot, strong antagonist, or characters that are especially admirable. Ashen, at least, no longer sits and waits for things to happen to her, but both she and Rohan rely on Zazar rather than confront problems on their own.

    KNIGHT OF KNAVE (the title doesnít have a great deal to do with the story, but Iím prepared to give Norton and Miller the benefit of the doubt on this one. Editors often create names out of nothing), is an impressionistic novel. A great deal happens. Men fight and die. Women are kidnapped and rescued. Magic is cast. Yet Norton and Miller fail to give these events any particular weight. Ashen transforms herself from a kind woman to a complete shrew when Rohanís love is magically enchanted and helpless. Rather than wanting to help her, Ashen schemes to rid herself of this burden. Even Ysa isnít so petty. Similarly, Obern is transformed from a kind and generous man to a self-concerned jerk. Admittedly many women feel that their husbands suffer a similar transformation so this might not be so far-fetched. Still, in a novel, these things need to occur for a reason and in KNIGHT OR KNAVE, they donít.

    The novel is not a bad book. It is well written and hints at a strange interesting universe. Unfortunately, the unappealing characters and undeveloped plot detract from it.

    One Star

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