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When The King Comes Home
Caroline Stevermer
Tor Books, 240 pages

When The King Comes Home
Caroline Stevermer
Caroline Stevermer grew up in Minnesota and graduated from Bryn Mawr College.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Pat Caven

I've been selling books for over sixteen years.  If there is one singular complaint from customers, it is that their favourite writers don't write fast enough.  That they have to wait too long between books.  My answer has always been that it's quality not quantity, craftsmanship and not just a smart word-processing program.  My years of experience reading books I love have never changed that.  Still, it was way too many years between Megan Lindholm's Wizard of the Pigeons before she re-emerged as Robin Hobb and launched the Farseer series.  Peter Beagle, Lisa Goldstein, Robin McKinley, Parke Godwin, Delia Sherman, Judith Merkle Riley -- keep me waiting forever, searching through publishers' catalogues.  Jonathan Carroll?  Well, for that I just pray.  But the kicker comes with the fact that as long as the wait is, I'm never disappointed.

When Caroline Stevermer's A College of Magicks was released in 1994, I was besotted.  When it was released in paperback the following year, no customer walked away without it.  It was a joy to read, gratifying to recommend and over the years she became another author to quest for.  True to form, I've waited, and been rewarded.  Stevermer's When The King Comes Home was worth it.

In a Renaissance world allayed alongside our own, Hail Rosmer is an artist's apprentice studying in the city of Aravis.  Two centuries past, the fabled King Julian IV disappeared into legend.  The promise of his mythical return has become synonymous with wild dreams fulfilled.  And Hail is just such a dreamer.  But ambitious apprentices soon discover they have enemies, and while fleeing the city one fateful night, she stumbles upon a man fishing by the river.  A lost and bewildered man who bears a remarkable resemblance to the King whose face she has been studying on a 200-year-old medal.  Caught up in events beyond time, Hail must serve her country and her talent when the king comes home.

There's a little bit of Camelot here, subtly drawn characters and a wry humour that makes this new book just a plain good read.  There is no predictable pattern here, no cookie-cutter formula. Just a spunky hero, a tragic tale reborn (and redeemed) and a clear, clean style reminiscent of the best of young adult classics with depth.  It's not a fat book and stands completely and utterly alone (thank you).

Now back to those catalogues.

Copyright © 2000 Pat Caven

Pat Caven was (and perhaps in some ways still is) a local bookseller. She has now wandered into the public domain.

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