cover image The Shadow of Albion

The Shadow of Albion

Andre Norton. Tor Books, $23.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86427-9

Norton (Scent of Magic) and Edghill's (Book of Moons) collaboration shows how British history might have developed had the heirless Charles II been succeeded by his eldest bastard, the Duke of Monmouth, instead of by his unpopular brother James. Three generations after the change, in the early 19th century, the French have had their revolution, but America remains a colony (governed by Lord Protector Thomas Jefferson). Magic and faerie exist, but are even more covert than the numerous political factions and plots that enliven this action-packed novel. The story starts when the dying Marchioness of Roxbury gives her body to the consciousness of an alternate self: Sarah Cunningham, a poor orphan. Sarah must fulfill the marchioness's neglected promises: to protect King Henry IX's throne from the machinations of the spurned James's descendants and the designs of Napoleon, while helping the magical Old People of her estate fight off a Terror-beast that wants them destroyed. Sarah humorously adjusts to her new identity, encounters her dashing but (apparently) cold husband by an arranged marriage and ultimately proves her bravery. The archaic language might test some readers (""a slightly old-fashioned dress of sprig muslin"" with ""a ruffled lawn fichu"") but the ton atmosphere and arch manners are richly described. Fans of the period and certainly of historical fantasy will be pleased by the amusing characters and elaborately plotted intrigue. (Apr.)