cover image Spellbinders


Aleardo Zanghellini. Lethe, $20 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-59021-696-5

Zanghellini unpacks the romantic and political complications of England’s Edward II in his intriguing debut work of fantasy-inflected historical fiction. At age 15, Prince Edward falls hard for teasingly impertinent, handsome Piers Gaveston. Their romance blossoms into a church-sanctioned sworn brotherhood that Zanghellini recounts in a satisfying combination of erotic and tender moments. The earls bristle at Piers’s undue influence over Edward and collude to have Piers banished twice, but Edward uses royal power to bring him home. After the earls successfully conspire to kill Piers, Edward enters a long mourning period and nightly communes with his lover’s silent ghost. In his search for revenge, Edward misguidedly enters a dalliance with Hugh Audley that ends with betrayal and cascading political complications. As Edward struggles to contain the earls and foreign threats, he seeks comfort from indiscreet nobleman Hugh Despenser. Edward’s final undoing comes through the rebellion led by his much more competent and touchingly rendered wife, French princess Isabella. Zanghellini’s modern sensibilities do not overwhelm period touches, though his pacing sometimes lurches. Readers seeking tales of gay historical figures will be very pleased with this fully developed tale. (Dec.)