Mercedes Lackey & Roberta Gellis






4th in the Doubled Edge series
Baen Books, Apr 2008
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Historical fantasy. Tudor England

Young King Edward is dying, but it is treason to say so. His sisters Mary and Elizabeth, heirs by law, can do nothing but wait. His Protector, the Duke of Northumberland, on the other hand, can do and is doing many things to keep his power after Edward is dead. One of them is to attempt to trick and capture both sisters.

Underhill, the world of elves, has a great stake in what happens in England. If England is miserable, their misery feeds the Dark Court. If England is happy, their joy feeds the Bright Court. A truly unhappy time, which is predicted when Mary rules, could feed the Dark Court so well that they might wreak havoc in the Bright half of Underhill. And that's not counting the help of the Evil that has taken up residence Underhill.

Anyone with a smattering of history knows how it goes during Mary's reign. Mary keeps Elizabeth in close confinement during her entire reign. Wherever she lives, her women spy on her and her governors control her. But in this fantasy, Elizabeth often has an escape none of them know about. When she has privacy, she can go at night to Underhill to be with her beloved Denno and their elven friends. There they can enjoy themselves and combat the plans of the Dark ruler Vidal Dhu.

The previous books in this series, THIS SCEPTER'D ISLE, ILL MET BY MOONLIGHT, and BY SLANDEROUS TONGUES, have been purveyors of delight. The magic, beauty, and imagination of Bright Underhill, the charm and determination of Elizabeth and her Bright Court friends, make an irresistible adventure. Now we have the miserable England that has been fated for so long. Elizabeth, captive and in fear for her life, is unable to do anything but wait and survive for long periods of time, which makes a big difference in the pace. Authors Lackey and Gellis fill this time with intrigue and planning, and often switch to other viewpoints including Elizabeth's Dark Court enemies to keep the plot flowing.

AND LESS THAN KIND is noticeably less well proofread than the previous books of the series. Someone did the proofing who doesn't know commas, or wasn't paying attention. Example from the hardback: "Howard said 'I am not thrilled…'" Such omissions occur throughout the book, and I found it distracting. Maybe the paperback has been reworked; I hope so.

This should not by any means stop anyone from completing their read of this series. The Doubled Edge series should become a classic: for lovers of charmed historical fantasy, and for fans of both Mercedes Lackey and the many times award-winning Roberta Gellis.

Aug 2008


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