The Knight of the Red Beard
Andre Norton and Sasha Miller
Tor, Sep 2008, $25.95
Having resolved their adversarial relationship the NordornQueen Ashen and NordornKing Gaurin ruled pragmatically yet with fairness for years over a prosperous kingdom. However, before their respective ages becomes issue, the NordornLand monarchs must look at the next generation to insure the heir Dependable and conscientious Bjaudin succeeds them to the throne.
After seeking adventure by stowing away on a Sea-Rover, Bjaudin’s eleven-year-old younger brother Mikkel is made prisoner by the ferocious Wykenigs; especially interested in the captive is abusive Gunnora who has a past with her detainee’s family. His thirteen years old sister Elin, coveting the throne, turns to her scheming malevolent grandmother Ysa as her mentor-ally causing havoc for her parents. Meanwhile, the age of peace and prosperity seems to have ended as a new threat to the NordornLand surfaces; the other grandmother, Zazar uses magic to attempt to free Mikkel and to eliminate the danger.
This is an exciting well written Oak, Yew, Ash and Rowan Cycle fantasy that will leave fans of the saga enjoying the “final” entry, but annoyed that closure to the major dangling plot threads from the previous four books failed to occur. Instead new subplots lead to the conclusion more novels are coming. Still this is an entertaining story as the focus is on the children of Ashen and Gaurin and to a degree their stereotypical diametrically opposite grandmothers.