PATHS OF EXILE
Carla Nayland

 


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Quaester2000, 2009
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

7th century Britain

Eadwine, Warden of the March, is facing a desperate last stand with the surviving handful of his war party. They have harried the army of Black Dudda until it is half its size, but one hundred warriors is still a fatal-sized opponent for Eadwine's men to clash with head-on.

Making a mad dash for home, Eadwine discovers that his father the king of Diera (approximately today's Yorkshire) has embarked on a strategy that can't help but fail. Eadwine's honor demands that he die with the rest – much to his chagrin he is rescued. He has no safe place to go; the conquering king Aethelferth is offering a huge price for his capture. His task now is to avenge his family and rescue his fiancée. If only the people of Diera didn't need him so much.

Author Carla Nayland values historical authenticity, which can be a problem for the historical novelist. There are so few reliable accounts of Britain's history during this period, that Nayland has the freedom to invent a satisfying story without straying from the known facts. The result is a stimulating, suspenseful adventure.

It took me a few chapters to get into the story, because at first we are given brief introductions to too many characters. Pretty soon events thin the cast out, we get familiar with them, and the personalities take some interesting twists. Eadwine is only on the verge of adulthood in spite of his brains and his military experience, and he isn't as well acquainted with some people as he thinks he is. Love isn't quite what he thought it was, either. And, there is at least one appalling plot twist. I encourage you not to despair at that point. The final chapters are dancing-on-the-edge exciting.

I once read right past my bus stop on this, and twice past the end of my lunch time. What kept me reading was, Eadwine thinks. He makes plans, smart ones. I had to keep reading to find out how the plan was going to work out.

PATHS OF EXILE is not speedy. Be prepared to read carefully. For one thing, you don't want to miss the bits of whimsical writing. Also the author has a fondness for long paragraphs: the descriptions of landscape particularly, while atmospheric, are very long and detailed. You can go carefully through the landscape paragraphs or you can skip them. I felt they were worth reading, even though they kept my momentum from building up for a long time.

Carla Nayland had better be at work on the sequel! In the meantime, you can get her previous book INGELD'S DAUGHTER free on her website http://www.carlanayland.org/index.shtml .

Mar 2009

 

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