cover image The Serpent's Tooth

The Serpent's Tooth

Diana L. Paxson / Author William Morrow & Company $20 (402p) I

In this fantasy retelling of King Lear , Paxton intriguingly posits that the daughters' treatment of the old king demonstrates a conflict between matrilineal and patrilineal cultures. Leir, a leader of the Quiritani people from the Great Land, conquers the Painted People of Iron Age Britain. He fathers a daughter with each of three major queens, his favorite child being the youngest, Cridilla, who is trained, like her sisters, to join a long line of women warriors. When famine overtakes the land in Lier's old age, his oldest daughters secretly agitate his overthrow and a return to the rule of the Goddess. Cridilla, who loves a chieftain of the Quiritani of the Great Land, refuses to join her sisters when they make their false and honeyed promises to the king and is banished when her pregnancy is revealed. Later, Cridilla determines to battle her sisters and save her father, since she realizes that the old ways cannot return. Unfortunately, the magic Paxton brought to the Tristan and Isolde legend in The White Raven makes but a dim appearance here. Too much attention is devoted to the rituals and omens of the Goddess and not enough to character and plot development. (July)