A rich, immersive narrative founded on impeccable scholarship.

THE FORGOTTEN KINGDOM

Second in Pike’s trilogy about ethnic, political, and religious strife in sixth-century Celtic Britain.

Pike’s intent in this trilogy, as expressed in her exhaustive author’s note, is twofold: to reconstruct a factual basis for Arthurian legend and to shed more light on Languoreth, a queen who was outshone in history by her brother Lailoken, later known as Myrddin—or Merlin. The action covers the period from 572 to 580 C.E. Languoreth is the wife of Rhydderch, heir apparent to King Tutgual, and her brother is a Wisdom Keeper and a warrior in Uther Pendragon’s Dragon Warriors. War ignites as Tutgual’s forces, led by Rhydderch in alliance with the depraved pedophile Gwrgi, march on the Dragons. Because of her brother’s affiliations, Languoreth endures house arrest in Tutgual’s hall despite the fact that her oldest son, Rhys, is fighting on Tutgual’s side and the fact that her mother-in-law, Queen Elufed, (a Pict, which will prove significant later) is her ally. The third protagonist here is Angharad, 9-year-old daughter of Languoreth and Rhydderch. The child accompanies the Dragons to their stronghold to further her training as a Wisdom Keeper, but she is caught up in a siege. After the Dragons’ defeat in a catastrophic battle, the three principals disperse along separate paths. Lailoken goes into exile, Angharad falls in with Picts and priestesses, and, as her husband’s political fortunes increase, Languoreth seems to resign herself to her marriage of convenience. Artur (Arthur) is introduced as a minor character. With its plethora of information on the ethnicities, languages, and geography of post-Roman Britain, this novel might risk having only niche appeal if it weren't for the propulsive plot and flawed humanity of its characters. Invading Germanic Angles will sorely test the Celts’ always questionable ability to unify in defense. Pike continues to elucidate the feminist struggles of the matriarchal Old Way against encroaching patriarchal Christianity. Languoreth’s role remains diminished, less by Lailoken than by the constraints imposed on women by noblesse oblige.

A rich, immersive narrative founded on impeccable scholarship.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9145-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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