Book Project Review: The Hallowed Isle by Diana L. Paxson
The Hallowed Isle: Book One: The Book of the Sword: Mighty Rome subjugated the isle of Britain only to abandon it, leaving behind a bloody patchwork of warring tribes. The fragile peace imposed by the conquerors has been shattered, compelling Artoria Argantel — Lady of the Lake and Druid priestess — to call upon the Spirit of War and Justice to deliver a champion who will unite the broken land. It is from Argantel’s ancient and royal blood that the hero will spring; his sword will be forged from star-steel by ancient spells, carried by soldier-priests from the steppes of Asia to the edges of the Empire. Only one man can wield this holy steel, aided by the wizard Merlin, whose heritage is a magic wilder still. Only one man can free the sword from its prison of stone. Artor, a fosterling of unknown parentage. The promised High King.
I did not know of Diana Paxson until I read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s later Avalon books. I have a few of her other books now at home but I was curious to see her take on the Arthurian legend. There are four short books in this series (I’m trying to read through the shorter books in my book project and then tackle the longer ones later on). I’m sort of kicking myself for not writing about this book sooner cause I’ve read other books since. But here’s what I can remember:
This book is a bit more focused on Merlin and his origins, and the events leading up to the Sword. His mother is the Lady of the Lake’s cousin and his father is unknown because one day, Maderun (the cousin) gets lost in the forest and she is taken care of by a Wild Man. Eventually she becomes pregnant and finds her way to civilization but her memories of her time with the Wild Man are hazy, as if she was never with a man. Thus, her child, Ambros, is thought to be the child of a witch. Eventually though, he comes to realize he has a unique power to communicate with nature and foresee events, and his wisdom is valued. He is the one that forges the sword in the stone and waits for its rightful owner. The book does end with Artor (Arthur) taking the sword and becoming the prophesied Defender of the land.
This book was a quick read and I think I’ll be reading the other three as well. I think maybe I should read them sooner than later considering I’m starting to forget stuff already. Yikes! But still, if you’re into Arthurian fantasy, this looks to be a series to definitely check out, although I believe it is out of print. I got my copies via PBS. The narrative moves right along, and it’s interesting to see another version of the Arthurian tale. The next book deals with a tale of revenge.