THE WICKED by Douglas Nicholas


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Nicholas’ sequel to his historical saga, Something Red (2012), continues the haunting tale of exiled Irish queen Maeve and her cohorts in medieval north England.

Maeve’s troop rests at the castle of the Sieur de Blanchefontaine, Sir Jehan, the place where she defeated an evil presence, one appearing as a fox "the size of a small horse." Maeve is with her granddaughter, Nemain; former crusader Jack Brown; and the orphan Hob, now Squire Robert under Sir Jehan’s patronage. Word of trouble comes from lands of the Sieur de Chantemerle, Sir Odinell. A Northumbria newcomer, Sir Tarquin, is "secretive," "barely civil," and soon after his arrival, "affairs began to go awry." Knights are spellbound. Peasants disappear and are found as corpses, "horribly wizened…skin…brown and harsh as bark…interior collapse along fault lines deep in the flesh." Sir Jehan persuades Maeve to help Sir Odinell. After the journey to castle Chantemerle, Maeve glimpses evil emanating from Sir Tarquin and realizes "there’s a fell being that haunts this coast: something dire, something vast." Nicholas is a marvelously descriptive writer, littering the narrative with images of table fare at inns ("cruppy-dows, cakes made of oatmeal and fish”), medieval dialects ("a few miles tae t’sooth, sithee”) and battledress ("mail hauberks and coifs, armored gloves, greaves, and helms”). Major character development comes as Hob matures into the future-queen Nemain’s worthy betrothed and warrior-protector, and the dark, violent tale moves rapidly as Maeve’s troop journeys through desperate adventures and into Northumbria, meeting charcoal makers, slaying bandits and staying a "sennight" at Abelard Inn awaiting the summons of Sir Odinell to confront Sir Tarquin. And much like a more profound Harry Potter for adults, Nicholas’ fantasy-laced knights-of-old saga ends with opportunity for more to come.

Nicholas weaves the magic of wizards and sorceresses—buidseach and cailleach phiseogach—so naturally into the medieval milieu that Maeve’s tale reads as entertaining historical fiction rather than a fey supernatural tale.

Pub Date: March 25th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4516-6024-1
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Emily Bestler/Atria
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2014


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