R. Garcia y Robertson,
The Spiral Dance
(Avon, 1991)

Anne, the Countess of Northumberland, is plotting treason against Queen Elizabeth I when she meets a fool on the road -- a fool with the knowledge and demeanour of her older self. That is the unlikely beginning of The Spiral Dance, a historical fantasy by R. Garcia y Robertson that sweeps across Elizabethan politics, Scottish Highland and Lowland society, and an unexpected truth about the Faerie realm of that time.

The ill-conceived rebellion against the English monarchy is driven largely by Anne's desire to return England to the old religion -- in this case, Catholicism, the practicing of which is an executable offense in Elizabeth's England. But when Anne becomes a fugitive and flees into the "safe" haven of Scotland, she learns to her surprise and initial dismay that there is a religion still surviving that is far older than her own.

The novel pits Reformed Church against Catholic, Christian against pagan, Scotland against England, Highland against Lowland, and clan against clan. There are unexpected side trips into Faerie, lycanthropes, imprisonments and witch trials. There is even a bit of sex, and a lovely picnic.

But, like the peasants' army in the beginning of this book, the story at times gets bogged down in tedium. And, unfortunately, the story was meant to continue in a book never written. (I understand Robertson went on to write something about dinosaurs instead.) While The Spiral Dance does stand on its own, it would be nice to have a more solid conclusion than its ending provides.

This novel, filled with strong character development and historic details layered under a veil of fantasy, is good enough that I hope Robertson someday decides to finish the story. 'Til then, the unsatisfactory ending of The Spiral Dance will have to suffice.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 5 June 1999