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.
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.
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.