Within the Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes
MacRae-Smith Company, 2nd printing, 1947
Genre: historical fiction
Synopsis & Review: After the death of the Black Prince in 1376, Edward III’s heir was Richard of Bordeaux, and as the oft-repeated adage “Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child” goes, his reign was a much-troubled one. Due to his young age, Richard II was initially ruled by his Plantagenet uncles, especially John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester. As he neared his majority Richard initially distrusted John of Gaunt–as did most of England–but his loathing was reserved for Gloucester and his party. Control of the government remained in the hands of a series of councils as prominent men struggled for supremacy, a condition offensive to the young Richard, who longed to restore England to a peace and prosperity unknown in England for decades. While the great tussled over influence, England strove to surmount the devastation of years of foreign campaigns and plague, a situation that came to a head in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. The Revolt provoked the first independent moment of Richard’s sovereignty, but control of the government was soon back in the hands of other men.
After his marriage to Anne of Bohemia, however, Richard would assert himself more strongly, but the depredations of his minority inspired another rebellion, and his chancellor and household members were dismissed, and some executed. The crisis ended only upon Richard’s assumption of control at his majority and the return of John of Gaunt to England. Together the two worked to restore peace and stability, and Richard finally ended wars with France and began establishing a culture of the arts in England. But the death of his beloved Good Queen Anne devastated Richard, and the period of his “tyranny” began, a time that ended only with the usurpation of his throne by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke and Richard’s subsequent imprisonment and murder.
For centuries Richard II would be remembered as extravagant, incompetent, weak, even mad, a ruthless tyrant unable to even provide an heir, a man from whom England had to be saved. But was the story so simple, or something far more complex? Read the rest of this entry »
Born to Run: A Novel of the SERRAted Edge by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon
Genre: urban fantasy
Synopsis & Review: Tannim and the elves of Fairgrove Elfhame have a soft spot for children in need and hot cars. For the latter, they’ve set up a stock car racing club, including experiments with fusing magic and technology to shield elves from cold iron. With the former, they try to develop a rapport with streetkids until they can get them to a safe environment, such as Underhill. When Tannim, representing Fairgrove Industries, recruits Sam, a former Gulfstream employee to act as a technological front for them, he also finds himself distracted by a teen runaway.
Tania Delaney left her home in hopes of finding people who cared about her, people who wouldn’t crush her dreams. Instead, she found herself living on the streets, selling her body for rent and food money at the ripe old age of fourteen. While cruising a Savannah bar for johns one night, she hears Celtic folk-rock and is enchanted by the sound. While there, Tannim glimpses her, and persuades Tania to accept some money and food credit, hoping to get her off the streets sometime soon. Bemused but elated by her windfall, Tania stays off the streets that night, going back to her rathole to share with her friends Jamie and Laura.
While Tannim works on gaining Tania’s trust, he also distracted by hostile activity by the local Unseleghe Court, who seek to eradicate Fairgrove and its elves. To fund their mortal world activities, the Unseleighe Sidhe are running a child pornography ring specializing in S&M and snuff films. Noting Tannim’s interest in Tania, they move in to acquire her in a bid to destroy Elfhame Fairgrove once and for all.
Yes, Born to Run is chock full o’ elves, magic, unicorns, Nineties alt-rock, kiddie porn, ghosts, boggles, and trolls, yet it still sucks. And I totally enjoyed it back in eleventh grade. Read the rest of this entry »