Rite of Conquest
by Judith Tarr
Reviewed by Coral
To the unmagical Christian world, William Duke of Normandy is a bastard, born from a dalliance his father had with a tanner's daughter. But to the magical pagan world, William is the son of a druid and the Year-King, born during their most sacred of rites, and heir to a destiny greater than he could have imagined.
He is the reincarnation of Arthur and a bunch of other kings. The English throne is meant to be his - despite the fact that England already has a King and that William is neither English nor Saxon - so he can tear down the invisible walls Christianity has built around the island and free the magic of England once more.
I did not enjoy this book as much as I had hoped. There's just something about the way that Judith Tarr writes fantasy novels that I just can't get into. I find her historical books to be much better written, with better plots and characterization, as a whole.
Mathilda - who is sent to teach William to accept his abilities and his destiny and to help him learn to control his abilities - is almost Elian of the Lady of Han-Gilen all over again. She's powerful, beautiful, has turned down tons of suitors and is never wrong. The only difference is that she doesn't have two men in love with her. Her marriage to William (not a spoiler! History!) seems rushed. I didn't buy the feelings they were supposed to have developed for each other. It would have been better to leave it a marriage arranged both because of their titles and their power. They could have fallen in love with each other, gradually, afterwards.
I also didn't much care for the set up of the story. I don't like it when stories have all the pagans being evil and the Christians being the good guys, but I also don't like stories where it's all the pagans who are good and the Christians that are evil. Good and evil have nothing to do with a person's religion and all to do with the actual person, their soul or heart or whatever.
I didn't like how the Saxons were characterized in this book. I really hated everything that was written about them ruining England and destroying her soul. And all of the empty justification she tried to give for William taking the throne of a country that wasn't his.