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The Knight, the Harp, and the Maiden
Anne Kelleher Bush
Warner Aspect Books, 336 pages

The Knight, the Harp, and the Maiden
Anne Kelleher Bush
Anne Kelleher Bush is the author of the recent science-fantasy trilogy comprising Daughter of Prophecy, Children of Enchantment, and The Misbegotten King. She holds a degree in Mediaeval Studies from Johns Hopkins University, and lives in Connecticut with her children.

ISFDB Bibliography
Author Site at Warner Books

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

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Lindos and Rihana are evil and ambitious wizards competing for the control of one world. Rihana, knowing that Lindos' death must come at the hands of an "unborn knight," sends a young knight back in time to nip Lindos in the bud. Meanwhile, back in time, Lindos' minions rape the noble maiden Arimelle, sister of Arimond, himself betrothed to the harp-playing Lady Juilene. Arimond, born by caesarean and mad for vengeance, believes himself the unborn knight and attempts to assassinate Lindos with Juilene's help.

The Knight, the Harp and the Maiden is a pleasant novel, not particularly challenging maybe, but certainly engrossing at times. The pseudo-mediaeval atmosphere is well recreated, though this isn't surprising given Ms Bush's degree in Mediaeval Studies. The setting of The Knight, the Harp and the Maiden is much more one of modern fast-paced action and "realistic" inter-gender relationships, not that of the twilight-lit dew-laden forests, innocent virginal heroines, brave and honour-bound knights and slow-moving plots of William Morris' early novels such as The Wood Beyond the World (1894) and The Well at World's End (1896). Ms Bush's more modern approach has its pros and cons: besides the magic, it is undoubtedly more likely to reflect the reality of mediaeval times; however, it doesn't capture the dreamy mood of Morris or the cultural aesthetic of mediaeval romances like Tristan et Iseult, which to my tastes define mediaeval fantasy.

The end of the novel leaves many plot threads dangling. For example, while the wizard Rihana of Juilene's time aids the heroes in penetrating Lindos' magic force field, it is unclear why she would help in a plot that she only developed in her future, or if she had cross-time knowledge why did she not give far more aid to the unborn knight? The mythology of the harp-playing goddess Dramue, and its relationship to the goddess-dedicated songsayers is left very much in the background, with just enough detail to make one curious, but not enough to place the characters' actions in any sort of religious or social context. These observations and the fact that another potential mission has developed for the unborn knight, strongly suggest that a sequel is planned.

Where The Knight, the Harp and the Maiden left a very bad taste in my mouth was in the depiction of Juilene's reaction to two attempted rapes and one successful rape. Within a few weeks she is in a romantic and sexual relationship with Cariad. Though I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist, from personal experience in a number of cases, I can assert that even women who manage to fight off their assailants are deeply marked by the event, whether they talk openly about it or repress it, and in the case of rape victims the trauma is even greater. The portrayal of Juilene as a woman who bounces back almost as though nothing had ever happened is, besides unrealistic, extremely offensive. Rape has become a convenient tool in much fantasy fiction to quickly paint a male character as evil, with little or no consideration of the female character. It makes me sad to think that this book was written by a woman.

So go ahead and read The Knight, the Harp and the Maiden, it is after all a fairly entertaining work, and let's hope that the sequel ties together the loose ends and presents a somewhat more realistic portrayal of abused women.

Copyright © 1999 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.


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