Monday, February 25, 2013

Bradamant's Quest (Ruth Berman)

Bradamant's Quest
Ruth Berman
FTL Publications
Fiction, Fantasy
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: King Charlemagne's victories claimed many lives, including those of his greatest and most loyal knights. In addition to the loss of the legendary Roland, Bradamant's husband Roger fell defending France from its enemies. Though there is much to do to rebuild her uncle Charlemagne's ravaged realm, the widow finds herself adrift... until a fateful encounter with Oberon, king of the fairies.
While the king's victories may have been blessed by God, fairy gifts - from books of magic to her brother's beloved hippogriff and even Roland's sword - were instrumental in winning the day. But the time of old magic is passing, as Christianity and mortals ascend. The fairies will soon withdraw from this world forever, and they do not mean to leave their relics behind. Bradamant accepts Oberon's quest, to gather the many magical artifacts of her kinsmen and return them to the fairy king. But the relics lie scattered across the whole of Charlemagne's empire, and some of their current bearers will do anything to keep their prizes.

REVIEW: Based on the classical legends built around the real historical figure of King Charlemagne, this meticulously-researched book brings the reader into a myth cycle not often revisited in modern literature, especially not in the English language. I admit that I have never read The Song of Roland, Orlando Furioso, or other related works. (But, then, I've also never read the original King Arthur cycle.) Therefore, I felt a little lost, feeling that I ought to have known more about the characters, the histories, and the politics of the world Bradamant inhabits. Berman includes a lengthy appendix, explaining the historical and legendary roots she explored, but by then my eyes were already glazed. While the details help bring early medieval Europe to life, they also bog down the narrative, which didn't help when I was already feeling as though I were treading water in a murky stream. The story itself grows repetitive; there are just so many items Bradamant must recover, in so many corners of the realm, all of which are associated with so many memories for the character... it all bled together at some point. While technically well written, I simply felt too alienated by my ignorance of the Charlemagne myth cycle to truly enjoy it. Students of classical myth and early French history should like Berman's tale.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Lost Years of Merlin (T. A. Barron) - My Review
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (Patricia McKillip) - My Review
The Book of Fabulous Beasts (Joseph Nigg) - My Review

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