Irene Radford,
Merlin's Descendants #5:
Guardian of the Freedom

(DAW, 2005)

Guardian of the Freedom is the fifth book in Irene Radford's Merlin's Descendants series. Set this time in the decades leading up to the American Revolution, the heroine is Georgiana Kirkwood, sister of the Earl of Kirkenwood. Rather than submit to the confinement of an 18th-century woman's role, Georgie flees the family manor and ends up in Paris, where she is trained in swordsmanship by the great Casanova himself, before joining a company of mercenaries disguised as a man.

Georgie's brother Drake is the current Pendragon, assisted by the Pendragon Society, a group of family members with magical talents. Thanks to the Society, it is no longer up to the Pendragon alone to keep Britain safe. However, Drake's health is not the best and an heir must be chosen. When the family wolfhound chooses disgraced, hoydenish Georgie as Drake's heir, the family -- and the Pendragon Society -- begins to fracture.

King George III doesn't believe in the power of the Pendragons, but he is willing to use them to spy for him. With Drake not healthy enough to answer the king's call, it falls to Georgie to travel to the American colonies as the king's agent, to do her best to help the Pendragons maintain the British Empire.

In this installment of the Merlin's Descendants series, Radford deals with events and people (characters include Paul Revere and Benjamin Franklin) that ought to be at least somewhat familiar to all American readers. The narrative of the Pendragons intertwined with historical events that one learned about as a very small child is fascinating.

Radford again uses the device of setting off one character's story in the first person, this time, the engaging Georgie, who slowly comes to realize that her duty may not, after all, be to king and empire. Also included in the book is a note from the author on her historical sources and, as an afterward, "Paul Revere's Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

This is perhaps the most accessible book of the series to date. As the settings become more modern, it becomes easier to relate to the characters. It would be interesting to see how Radford would handle a 20th-century setting.

by Laurie Thayer
15 April 2006

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