Irene Radford,
Merlin's Descendants #4:
Guardian of the Promise

(DAW, 2003)

Guardian of the Promise is the fourth book in Irene Radford's Merlin's Descendants series. Unlike the others, however, it does not jump several centuries from the setting of the previous book, but continues in the Elizabethan setting, with the next generation of Kirkwoods, Griffin and Donovan's children.

Young Deirdre is Griffin's daughter by Roanna, born in the sacred circle near Huntingdon to shield her from the demon Tryblis who possessed her mother. Her parents killed each other in a magical duel when she was but an infant and she has been raised at Kirkwood by her uncle Donovan. Gifted with a wolfhound familiar, she is a possible successor to the titles of Merlin and Pendragon.

Betsy, Donovan's daughter by his first wife, also has a wolfhound pup. She desperately wants to be the Pendragon, desperately enough to sink to the depths of blood magic.

But Betsy has competition in the form of her twin half brothers Hal and Griffin. Griffin, as eldest legitimate son, will inherit the barony of Kirkenwood, while Hal, gifted with magical powers and a wolfhound pup, could also become the Pendragon.

Even as children, they take their responsibilities seriously, so that when Deirdre senses great evil brewing in Paris, evil that originated with her mother's demon, she feels that she must be the one to set it right. And so she sets out for Paris, a decision that will shape all three young lives.

In Guardian of the Promise we see the events leading up to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (with whom Donovan is still desperately in love) and the sailing of the Spanish armada. True to their calling, the Kirkwoods are there to defend Britain against her enemies, both from within and without.

As with the other books in the series, much of the book is told in the third person, with one character narrating from the first person -- in this case, Deirdre. It is a device that works in this instance, both to set Deirdre apart as the Pendragon and to let the reader find out what is happening to other characters without being utterly confused by everyone saying "I did such and so."

As always, Radford deftly weaves history and fiction together, making the first readable and the second believable -- not necessarily as easy as it might sound. Guardian of the Promise is a worthy addition to the series.

- Rambles
written by Laurie Thayer
published 23 August 2003

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