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The Hallowed Isle, Book Two: The Book of the Spear
Diana L. Paxson
Avon EOS Books, 200 pages

The Hallowed Isle, Book Two: The Book of the Spear
Diana L. Paxson
Diana L. Paxson grew up in California. As a child, she made up stories to put herself to sleep. She started writing seriously in 1971. Her first sale was 8 years later. Her influences include Marion Zimmer Bradley, Rosemary Sutcliffe and Mary Renault.

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SF Site Review: The Hallowed Isle, Book One: The Book of the Sword

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Jonathan Fesmire

Diana L. Paxson's second novel in her Arthurian series, The Hallowed Isle, starts shortly after the first novel The Book of the Sword left off, except with a twist. The reader leaves Artor and the Britons for a while to spend time with their main enemies, the Saxons.

At first I found the shift in perspective a little disorienting. The first book had been mostly from a British point of view. We saw the world through the eyes of Merlin and the Ladies of the Lake. Yet the characters and situations kept me engrossed and soon enough, I understood all the connections.

The Hallowed Isle Book Two: The Book of the Spear gives a new perspective on the Saxons. Most of the story is told from the point of view of Oesc, the grandson of Hengest, the Saxon king who, two generations ago, led a covert slaughter of the British princes. Oesc discovers his heritage and with his father, Octha, goes off to battle for more British land.

The battle is one also covered in The Book of the Sword, in which Uthir wields the God Sword, known in other books as Excalibur. Its power kills him, but during the battle, Uthir kills Oesc's father.

Later, Artor becomes the high king. In yet another battle with the Saxons, he captures Oesc. This puts Oesc in a quandary, as he is now under the power of a man whose father killed his own. For years Oesc is Artor's prisoner, during a time when the High King fights to unite the many tribes living in Britannia. Artor treats several of his warrior prisoners as companions and friends, and in time they become friends indeed. Oesc finds himself loyal to the High King. He fights beside Artor. They celebrate seasonal festivals together.

When Hengest dies, Artor gives Oesc a choice: to stay with him, or to return to the British-granted Saxon land, to become the Saxon king. Oesc returns, swearing allegiance to Artor, not knowing that fate will decide what comes of their alliance, and their friendship.

Although the novel covers many battles and historical occurrences, at its heart is the story of Oesc and Artor's relationship. Paxson presents it from various viewpoints, including that of Merlin, and the Saxon wise woman, Haethwaege. At times the story shifts to Artor's point of view, but for the most part we see him from the outside, enhancing the impression that he is a man of destiny.

Like it's predecessor, The Book of the Spear is rich with symbolism and history. Paxson's style gives a flavour of the times while carrying the story forward. Again, Paxson delivers a wonderful story.

Copyright © 1999 by Jonathan Fesmire

Jonathan Fesmire has travelled to France, Germany, Estonia, Finland, and Ireland. He enjoys speaking French and learning bits of other foreign languages, but most of all, he loves writing, and has sold fiction to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, SpaceWays Weekly, Jackhammer, and others.

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