>Review: This Scepter’d Isle by Mercedes Lackey & Roberta Gellis

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Denoriel: Warrior of Koronos, rider in the Wild Hunt … nursemaid?
     A glow of power lifted about the crystal lens. “Here is the nexus of our future,” said the FarSeer. Within the lens Denoriel Silverhair saw a human infant, red-haired, held by a figure that Denoriel recognized – the mortal king of England, Henry, eighth of that name. The lens misted again, and scene after scene played out briefly before him – briefly, but enough to show him a future very bright for the mortals of England. “And this,” said the lady of the ancient ways, “is what will come to pass if that child does not reign.” Now the lens showed black-robed priests torturing hundreds until they would confess to anything, then burning what was left. Others, whose intellects burned as brightly as the flames, confessed their sins of difference defiantly … and were also burned. In place of a flowering of art and science, darkness fell over the land, under the iron hand of Spain and the Inquisition.
     “You are the key to all of this.” The FarSeer’s emerald eyes held his. “The red-haired child of Great Harry of England must live, and thrive, and grow up to rule. You must become her protector.”
     “But I am a warrior, not a nursemaid-” he said, feebly.
Welcome to English Tudor history as you never knew it before! This is not Jonathan Rhys Meyers‘ England – not quite. Although Henry VIII‘s court produced enough drama to fuel a hit four-season television series, veteran fantasy author Mercedes Lackey has teamed up with talented author Roberta Gellis to add even more layers of political intrigue and family feuding to Tudor England. For beyond the mundane world known to history books lie the realms Underhill – the fairy realms. And their inhabitants have a vested interest in what happens in the mortal world.
Lackey and Gellis have drawn heavily on Celtic mythology to create their parallel fantasy realm. The elven residents, magic wielders with long pointed ears and a severe allergy to Cold Iron, are called Sidhe (pronounced shee), and are divided into two opposed and competing races – the Seleighe (see-lee) and Unseleighe (un-see-lee). The energy that powers the magic, courts, and lives of the Sidhe flows from the mortal realms. The Seleighe Court thrives on the positive energy produced by the flowering of art, science, freedom, love and joy, but the Unseleighe Court thirsts for the energy of pain, fear, hatred, and suppression. Both Seleighe and Unseleighe are ruled over by the awesome and distant King Oberon and Queen Titania (like the title of the book, a nod to that Elizabethan giant Shakespeare), who generally give their subjects fairly free reign, stepping in to exercise authority only when the secrecy in which the Sidhe live is jeopardized, or the dissension between the two courts threatens to spiral completely out of hand. 

This Scepter’d Isle is the first installment in a four-part historical fantasy series chronicling the succession drama of Henry VIII of England through the eyes of the Sidhe of Logres and Caer Mordwyn, the Seleighe and Unseleighe courts geographically attached to England. FarSeers in both courts have foretold the coming struggle between Henry’s children, and each court has its preferred outcome, with the Unseleighe desperate for Bloody Mary to bring the Inquisition to England and flood them with the energy of misery, and the Seleighe craving the Golden Age her sister Elizabeth can bring to England. The rulers of each court decide to send representatives to the mortal world in disguise, in an attempt to influence mortal events in their favor.

These representatives add their own familial drama to that playing out in the English court. The Seleighe send the youthful (for elves) twins Denoriel and Aleneil Silverhair, but the Unseleighe send their own set of twins – Pasgen and Rhoslyn Silverhair. That the two sets of twins bear the same last name is not coincidental; they are actually half-siblings to each other. All four were kidnapped as infants by the Unseleighe Court, but only Denoriel and Aleneil could be recovered on the rescue mission that killed their father. So the sets of twins have grown to adulthood as the bitterest of enemies, and are now going to square off in a chess-like game of influence and intrigue in Henry’s court.

The focus of the contention between Seleighe and Unseleighe in This Scepter’d Isle is Henry FitzRoy, the only illegitimate child acknowledged by Henry VIII. Older than Mary or Elizabeth, Henry begins to seem like a real solution to his father’s succession problems as wife after wife produces only girl children. Since Henry FitzRoy’s ascension would prevent Mary’s reign, Pasgen and Rhoslyn are ordered to thwart the child’s succession by any means necessary, with Denoriel and Aleniel the only ones standing between the child and the forces of evil magic.

History buffs will delight in the sure-handed interweaving of the supernatural elements with historical facts and people, with the actions of the elves providing fascinating explanations for longstanding historical conundrums. Fans of epic high fantasy will thrill to the battle between the forces of good an evil, and the richly imagined world, rife with magic, of the Sidhe elves. Despite the fact that all historical novels based on real characters deal in foregone conclusions, the introduction of the elven element creates enough uncertainty and suspense to keep all 600+ pages turning at a brisk pace. The language, mercifully, has been kept modern, which makes sense upon reflection. Although Shakespeare sounds tremendously archaic to us, he was the cutting edge of modern slang when he was writing. If you mourned when The Tudors went off the air, and occasionally take your fiction spiced with a little fantasy, This Scepter’d Isle is for you. It is a thoroughly enjoyable start to a series that just gets better with every book.

Doubled Edge Series
Visit Mercedes Lackey’s website here, and visit Roberta Gellis’ website here.
This book was purchased by Elvie.
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2 responses to “>Review: This Scepter’d Isle by Mercedes Lackey & Roberta Gellis

  1. >Fan-Tab-Ulous!I liked the Tudors and I like my fiction spiced with fantasy;-)

  2. >Oh! Henry the 8th and anything Tudors (if well researched) is heaven in my book! You ladies just love keeping my TBR pile high don't you?

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