Julian May,
The Boreal Moon Tale #2:
Ironcrown Moon

(Ace, 2005)

In this second book of The Boreal Moon Tale, King Conrig Wincantor has finally realized his dream of holding the high kingship over the nations of the island of High Blenholme. It is a throne, however, that he could not continue to hold if more than a loyal few knew about his secret spark of magical talent, for the laws of High Blenholme forbid wizards to sit on the throne (except in Moss, where it is encouraged).

Unfortunately, Conrig's budding dynasty may not be able to keep the sovreignty. All of his children by his current wife show signs of magical talent, though in the youngest, it is so insignificant that it may yet go unnoticed. Rumors have reached the king that his first wife, long thought to have committed suicide, may still be alive. Worse yet, rumors place a young boy at her side, an untalented son who would be Conrig's true heir. Fearing that both Princess Maudrayne and her son could rip apart the sovreignty he worked so hard to form, Conrig calls upon his loyal spy Snudge to discover the truth.

Snudge, gifted with a hidden magical talent of his own, takes on the task, hoping that his friend and master will not order him to take the next logical step and kill both princess and child. Larger forces are at work in High Blenholme, though, and Conrig may just be as much a tool as he believes his spy to be.

Ironcrown Moon takes a different tack from many fantasies; instead of overthrowing a tyrant, we see a man -- who may have begun with the best of intentions -- slowly becoming one. It presents an interesting choice for the reader: whether or not to root for Conrig Wincantor. Snudge -- or Sir Deveron Austrey to give him his official title -- becomes the reader's stand-in. While initially devoted to his king, he is beginning to wonder about Conrig's intentions, especially regarding the dangerous cache of magical sigils that were stolen from the palace, which it is also Snudge's task to find.

The novel is filled with engaging characters, from the likeable Snudge to conflicted Conrig and smitten Ullanoth of Moss. Aware that Conrig is using her, she still loves him too much to refuse to do his bidding, even though it may cost her life.

With Ironcrown Moon, Julian May has found a new variation on an old theme. I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

by Laurie Thayer
8 April 2006

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