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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Beneath Ceaseless Skies #60, Jan. 13, 2011

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Beneath Ceaseless Skies #60, January 13, 2011

“Two Pretenders” by Marie Brennan
“Over a Narrow Sea“ by Camille Alexa

Reviewed by Bob Leishman

There was some royal blood in the Tudor line, but it was bastard blood.  I remember that much from a University lecture long ago.  In “Two Pretenders” Marie Brennan takes us back to the era of the Tudors, long after the battle that put Henry VII on the throne and finally ended the wars of the roses.  The Tudors, of course, were a wild card belonging to neither the houses of Lancaster or York, who had legitimate claims to the throne.

This story contains only two characters: Perkin Warbeck and Lambert Simnel.  Both men, according to history, claimed to be the legitimate heir to the throne and both were eventually incarcerated for it by Henry VII.  From that point on Brennan constructs a secret history for us – that there was more to the pretenders than was ever suspected.

Brennan‘s attention to historical details lends itself well to this story and her characters reflect a bloody period in English history.  I liked the story from that perspective.

“Over a Narrow Sea“ is a fantasy piece.  Two island kingdoms, Mekk and Toth, located adjacent to one another in a large sea, have been doing unkind things to one another for some time.  After finally declaring peace the principles meet at a banquet to honour the occasion only to be wiped out by a usurper, the son of the Mekk ruler who was killed with the others.

The story is told by Sigra, a member of the house of Toth and an heir apparent.  After the destruction her chief concern becomes saving the life of her best friend Katte, who was injured during the attack and who happens to be the sister of the man responsible for the massacre. The two girls have been friends, secretly, for years and the story takes them to a healer on another island.

Camille Alexa makes Sigra the center of the story by way of her love for Katte and her fear of Katte‘s brother.  Like Katte she‘s always been alone – a pawn in the middle of court intrigues.  There is also something about Sigra which her family wished to be kept hidden.

Alexa writes a good story here.  I can’t say any more without becoming a spoiler.