The Saxon Tapestry

Sile Rice, Author
Sile Rice, Author Arcade Publishing $21.95 (397p) ISBN 978-1-55970-158-7
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Rice's debut novel of 11th-century Britain on the eve of the Conquest, related in lusty, lyrical language, mixes Anglo-Saxon battles and Celtic charms. Patience is needed to bite into a text as chewy and resistant as this often is, with its pseudo-archaic diction, but effort is repaid. Hereward, second son of Leofric, earl of Mercia, grows up in the fens of Swan Mere. Called the changeling because of a facial mark and strange gaze--one blue eye, one gray--Hereward cannot find a woman till he and sidekick Hogni Tricksleeve are shipwrecked on an Irish isle. Hereward farms in the wilds, living idyllically with raven-haired enchantress Muirgheal, who bears him a flowerlike daughter. As Vikings bear down from the north, Harold, successor to Britain's feeble Edward the Confessor, is doomed to yield to Norman rule after Duke William, favored by the pope and treacherously abetted by Harold's brother, invades from across the Channel. Hereward rows home with his comrades to drive the pillagers from his father's hall. Unhappily, Rice skimps on the hero's last stand and moves abruptly away from the appealing Hereward and Muirgheal, but sustains throughout her vivid portrayal of a magical Britain, beguiling and robust in a half-pagan age. 30,000 first printing. (Jan.)
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