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    Review of THE SERPENT AND THE ROSE by Kathleen Bryan


    Tor, March 2007

    Although the servants of the New God and the Lady appear to have vanquished their ancient enemy, the serpent of chaos, lost magic has a way of being rediscovered. Lady Averil, only heir to an aging Duke, has a vision of the King extending his own power and that of the serpent-god he worships throughout the land. Her aging father may stand against him, but can that be enough? When the Duke calls her from her lifelong exile in training with the Lady, Averil must return to a world grown dangerous indeed.

    Gereint never knew his father and his mother does everything she can to keep him from exploring the magic that flows so richly through him. But when a group of Knights of the Rose find shelter in his home during a storm, Gereint decides he can stay on the farm no longer and follows the Knights. The Knights, he knows, are all sons of noblemen while he is a bastard who doesn't even know his father, but surely they can point him to an order that will accept his kind. To his surprise, the Knights take him in--although there is plenty of resentment over his low birth and his age (at sixteen, he's far older than the normal postulant), he's allowed to train with them. It doesn't take long before he realizes that his magic is different from theirs. Could he be a part of the danger they're preparing to confront.

    Although Averil is bound, by tradition and law, to marry a noble, someone who can lead armies and bring wealth and power to her family, and although Gereint is the son of a peasant and an unknown father, the two bond--over their studies and over the strange magic that flows in the two of them--and seemingly nowhere else. But before they can get into too much trouble, the King strikes and Averil's dukedom is overrun by royal forces--and by followers of the ancient and supposedly destroyed serpent god.

    Author Kathleen Bryan creates an engaging story that combines fantasy adventure with traditional elements of romance. The magical system she creates, with magic being bound and focussed within worked glass, seems interesting and well thought out. The magical land has a real history and layers of magic that add to the reader's interest. Bryan is also capable wordsmith, making the story all the more engaging.

    With all that is going for it, I would have liked the story itself to be a bit more original. The fatherless peasant discovering vast but somehow forbidden powers, falling for the princess and somehow winning her affection, and the evil serpent-worshiping king all seemed a bit familiar--as if we've read this story before. Bryan is a strong enough writer to hold my interest as I read, but I couldn't help wishing she'd used some of that talent to take our characters in new directions.

    See more reviews of novels by Kathleen Bryan.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 5/09/07

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