In her latest fantasy novel, Harris (Enter the Dream, 2012) tells the wistful tale of a king, a priestess and a pantheon of gods called the Star Kin.
In seventh-century Britain, the ravishing, red-haired Faine is a member of a wild clan of Celts living in Northumbria, ruled over by Saxon King Edwin. Faine is training to be a priestess and hopes to develop her healing gifts under the guidance of the goddess Ceridwen. But all appears lost when slave traders butcher her clan and bring her to Ad Gefrin, the king’s fortified village outpost. Her harsh new life of servitude, however, can’t strip away her beauty and regal bearing. King Edwin, a philosopher, statesman and widower, takes notice and falls for the Celtic slave despite his promise to marry the Kentish princess Ethelberga, who wants to convert King Edwin from his inclusive pagan beliefs to hard-line Christianity—which would, in turn, become the religion of his Saxon and Celtic peoples. Meanwhile, a group of Celtic gods called the Star Kin watch these developments with growing concern. The normally tolerant group must take bold action to keep from losing their followers and vanishing altogether. Thankfully, author Harris excels at action scenes, and her debut consistently zooms with gripping depictions of battle, intrigue and romance. However, the prose’s breathless quality may fatigue some readers; much of the plot is laid out with long descriptions, sometimes at the expense of dialogue and atmosphere. At times, the Star Kin feel like stage directors rather than characters caught up in the drama. At her best, however, the author gives readers scenes of perfect intimacy: “Greywing put his arms around [Earendel] and they rested, cheek to cheek, warm breast against warm breast.” She also skillfully conveys the gods’ celestial majesty: “Ceridwen swung around to the Master, so fast that small stars loosed themselves from her flowing black hair and danced around her head.” As a result, readers will likely find the story of Edwin, Faine, and the Star Kin a memorable one.
An often vivid historical epic with moments of lilting prose.