Chaz Brenchley,
Tower of the King's Daughter
(The Second Book of Outremer)

(Ace, 1998; 2003)

Reading this second of the six-book series is a joy. It is seldom that I've read a fantasy series that does not partake of the well-worn template of a man (or woman) of royalty (often secret) reluctantly setting out on a quest (usually with misfit companions) to save the world from an evil overlord or empire. Fantasy in particular seems to have a hard time shaking off the shadow of Tolkien, so when I began reading the Outremer series it was not without some sense of relief that I'd found a tale that had done exactly that.

The second book picks up the pace as the Sharai plan an attack on the fortress. Julianne again is visited by the djinni to whom she stands in debt. Rudel plans the rescue of a prisoner held in the fortress dungeons and Marron is no longer an apprentice monk. Events come to head as the secret in the fortress' tower is revealed.

The prose flows well as evidenced by this exchange between Sieur Anton and his squire after Marron is stripped of his monk-apprenticeship and expelled from Roc de Rancon:

"Sieur, thank you..." "Don't," the knight said. "Not yet. I lied to the court, Marron; you will find my discipline at least as stern as theirs, and no easier. If you can't practice obedience to me, I will have no use for you; and I won't keep you simply for your own sake." "I can obey you, sieur," simply, honestly, from the heart, and I will." "We'll see. Here." Soft bread and an apple pressed into his hands, the good and the bad, and if this was Sieur Anton's discipline, Marron wanted more of it, a lifetime's more. "Eat, and listen. You are my squire, given and sworn; you can sleep with the other squires and the servants, or you can sleep in my room as you have before. Either way will cause you trouble, because of whom you serve. The choice I leave to you."

The pairing of the bread and the apple with the good and the bad and Marron's choice plays on Judeo-Christian myths of mana from heaven and fruit of temptation. Yet Outremer is not an allegorical retelling of the Crusades though some resonances are similar. Every character walks, talks, thinks and acts believably. It is full of passages that yield gems on the periphery of awareness. It is a world I know and understand and though I've never been there would still say it is well worth visiting.

- Rambles
written by Dana Fletcher
published 22 November 2003

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