Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Child of the Phoenix by Barbara Erskine
"The child whose hands would hold three crowns is born in fire......
In 1218 an extraordinary princess is born. Her mystical powers and unquenchable spirit will alter the course of history.
Raised by her fiercely Welsh nurse to support the Celtic cause against the predatory English king, Princess Eleyne is taught to worship the old gods, to look into the future and sometimes the past. However, unable to identify time and place in her terrifying visions, she is powerless. But her tempestuous life and loves tie her to the destinies of England, Scotland, and Wales."
Child of the Phoenix was one of Erskine's best that I've read -- when she gets it right, she's good!!!! Like an alchemist, Erskine can blend history, religion, ancient beliefs and old magic, the supernatural, and the tragedies and triumphs of love and war that is storytelling at its best.
The strength of this book for me was that she set it entirely in the 13th century, (rather than a time-slip story as some of her other novels are) and nobody can transport me to the past like Erskine. While some historical figures have a role in this fictitous plot, the character of Eleyne, the beautiful and strong-willed heroine, is drawn from both the historical record and Erskine's own family history. She is a larger-than-life character from the moment of her dramatic birth during a devastating fire (a child of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth and Joanna), "a child of the fire." Raised by her nurse, Rhonwen, who believed in the old Celtic gods, Eleyne is taught to "scry" by looking into fire...only the visions are terrifying and she is not able to properly interpret them. Through her long and dramatic life of love and loss, triumphs and heart ache, she is a survivor and a powerful and intelligent example of a beautiful woman of her times. Hers is a great love story that defies even death, and I was left feeling (after 900 pages plus!) that I had experienced her life with her and I was really going to miss the fascinating Eleyne of Mar.
Recommended for those enjoy large, sweeping sagas with a blend of history and the supernatural....although I do admit to getting a bit confused and weary at the end of the novel when Eleyne's grandchildren came onto the scene...I just longed for a peaceful end for her and a completion of a her destiny.
Title: Child of the Phoenix
Author: Barbara Erskine