THE FIREBRAND
Debra A. Kemp

 


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Book One of The House of Pendragon series
Amber Quill Press, 2003
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

The Days of Camelot

In The House of Pendragon, King Arthur did not have only one son of his begetting, the infamous Modred. We know that story is coming, but we must wait to hear it. THE FIREBRAND is the story of Lin and her brother Dafydd, slaves in the castle of Arthurís sister Queen Morgause of Orkney and her sons.

Slavery is forbidden by King Arthur, but Queen Morgause does not care. She has many slaves, cold, underfed, and regularly whipped. The most often whipped slave, the most untamed, is Lin. From the moment her brother Dafydd was collared, on his twelfth birthday, Lin has fought back. She has attracted the hatred of Morgauseís son Modred, and it is all-out war between them. Bloody, raped, isolated, collared in her turn, Lin is undefeatable.

This life is made worth living by the fierce love between Lin and Dafydd and the warm supportiveness of their slave community. Linís unbending defiance flares like a call to arms. Dafydd devotedly uses his talent for singing and storytelling to raise the spirits of his companions. Without these elements, expertly interwoven by author Debra Kemp, most of THE FIREBRAND would be an unreadable litany of brutality and anguish. Fortunately there is a payoff Ė segments of the story in the beginning and end are warm with honor and a sense of belonging.

As a prospect for those who love the Arthurian myths, THE FIREBRAND poses a dilemma. Beyond it in the House of Pendragon series, there is a tale of Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. Yet to get to them, one must go through Linís harrowing experiences as a slave. They establish essential foundations for the interactions that are bound to follow. There is immense potential for drama upcoming in the loves and hates of Arthurís court. From the looks of things, the relationships in THE FIREBRAND are due to make a violent change in the sequel THE RECRUIT, and one must know what they were to understand what they will become.

We wonít know until the sequel is available, but it may turn out that the solution to the attraction-avoidance problem posed by THE FIREBRAND is to trim the first two books of the House of Pendragon series to the point where they can be published in one volume. This would provide an immediate reward for the reader who works through the torments of Linís slavery. THE FIREBRAND does not have the classic mood of the legends, nor the high tragedy of Bradleyís THE MISTS OF AVALON. THE FIREBRAND gives to the explosive relationships between Arthur, Gwenhwyfar, Lancelot, Modred, Lin and Dafydd, and the Knights of the Round Table, a foundation of deep-clawed passion.

THE FIREBRAND was an EPPIE award finalist for 2005. Author Debra Kemp reports that she is in the revision stage of the sequel THE HOUSE OF PENDRAGON II: THE RECRUIT. I am in a hurry to see familiar events in this new light.

July 2005 Review

 

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