Age Range: 12 & up
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 The author of several fantasies and SF novels for adults sets her first YA book in Charlemagne's court in A.D. 802. It's a story with considerable potential: lively characters like the emperor's feisty daughter Rowan and elephant keeper Kerrec (a relative of the legendary Roland), with whom she has a Beatrice/Benedick relationship; the elephant ``Abul Abbas,'' gift (with a talisman containing a fragment of the True Cross) of the Caliph Haroun al-Rashid to the emperor; an authentic-seeming setting, vivid with details presumably gleaned from Tarr's doctorate in medieval studies; a flowing and engaging style. The action hinges on the machinations of an evil Byzantine diplomat/sorcerer who attempts to bring Charlemagne to his death, a plot that involves magically subjugating Rowan's rather pallid sister Giselle to his will; it's foiled by Kerrec, a self-avowed witch, and by Rowan, who discovers her own greater powers with his help. But while it all makes an exciting yarn, Tarr misses the chance to explore issues beyond the usual triumph over evil. The elephant's promising role is hardly developed; and aside from commenting that the real animal lived only another eight years, Tarr doesn't differentiate fact from fiction (or from the legends accruing to the historical emperor) for curious young readers. Entertaining fare from an author who would seem to be capable of more substantial work. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-15-200737-7
Page count: 194pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1993