King of the Wood

Valerie Anand, Author St. Martin's Press $0 (468p) ISBN 978-0-312-02939-5
The death of King William II in a hunting accident serves as the convergence point for several satisfying plot lines in Anand's ( To a Native Shore ) fifth historical novel. After William Rufus, eldest of William the Conqueror's three sons, succeeds his father in 1087, royal siblings Henry and Robert (called Curthose) shift through various turbulent alliances as each conspires to wrest the throne for himself. The King ignores entreaties to marry Edith of Scotland and produce a successor; instead, he takes as a lover the skilled Norman rider and huntsman, Ralph des Aix. Although reluctant to enter into the relationship, Ralph nonetheless learns to care deeply for the King while he counts the days until he gains his promised knighthood and manor, and the freedom to establish his own family. When he becomes head of the manor at Chenna's Tun and weds beautiful, rebellious Sybil of Fallowdene, Ralph is drawn to the ancient pagan woodland rites and relishes his role as King of the Wood during Beltane's (May Day) carnal revelries in his woodland--where the fated regicide occurs. Betrayal, violation and eventual acquiescence to circumstance overlap imaginatively in this complex novel in which two kinds of kingship, each shadowed by compelling but proscribed practices, provide an effective dual theme. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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