Next in the 2011 Haven’t Read This In A Hundred Years series is Child of Saturn by Teresa Edgerton. It’s set elsewhere – almost – and elsewhen, but it’s a place and time where there is Christianity (Michelmas and Christmas and All-Hallows, christenings and crucifixes) and something not quite like the faerie that once walked this world (or so they say). And, of course, there’s the title; I, oddly, never put much thought into it.
There are some beautifully unique characterizations here. The evil princess, Diaspad, is beautifully evil, not content with following all of the stereotypical paths an attractive wicked woman usually sticks to. Her coterie is an assortment of varying strengths, from a vapid son to a maid who might just have a backbone; it’s a little scary to think what could have been accomplished by this lot if they were all clever and competent. The king, her half brother, is neither a great ruler nor a terrible one, but a rather capricious mediocre one – such as probably sat on many thrones throughout the centuries. He is, however, possessed of a Diaspad-shaped blind spot, and she has him trained so that he will not hear anything against her. His queen is brave and beleaguered, and not stupid, which is refreshing: so often a lady in her situation takes comfort where she oughtn’t, which makes everything worse.
The two main characters acting against this background are the two most unique and fascinating (happily). The king’s wizard, Glastyn, disappeared many years ago, leaving his very young and nearly invisible half-trained apprentice Teleri to fill in – which she does when pressured, preferring to remain invisible in her tower trying to complete her education with books that only open when certain circumstances are fulfilled. What she knows she knows, and does, well, but she has no confidence, no security. And to add to her lack of stability, the queen’s champion, Ceilyn, intrudes on her life, and he isn’t altogether the parfait gentil knight he appears to be and tries so hard to be …
The upshot is that very few characters behave as I expect them to – and in a library full of clichés and well-filled pigeonholes, that’s tremendous. The writing is superb; the plot is engaging; the characters live and breathe. Wonderful stuff, not to be missed.