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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2003

    Squires' Masterpiece!

    Susan Squires is a puzzler to try and shoebox. Her first novel was a grabber. Danegeld dealt with a period in Britain's history, generally ignored (last one I can recall was Johanna Lynsay in her Medieval Trilogy and that was a long time ago!). It was grimly realistic, provoking - possibly too grim and too provoking for more timid readers. But there was a rare, fresh voice in the work that was so rich in history often sadly neglected in today's lighter romance market. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE fast paced, whimsical romances, but feel there is room - and need - for both styles. Variety is what keeps the market fresh. The trend is to get the history of out historicals for this slows the pace of the romance. I love romance, but I also love history, the pageantry, the drama, so Danegeld was something I was glad to see published. In her second, Sacrament, Squires gave us a thinking woman's vampire tale. Not dwelling on the vampire aspect of it, she provoked (I often wonder if provoke is not Squires middle name) you into looking at good and evil - not of the vampire, but of the desires of individuals, those acted upon and those repressed, and the choices those desire can drive one to make. Many bemoaned this was not a traditional (aka stereotypical) vampire tale, to which Squires quite blithely thanked you and agreed. Her third work, Body Electric, pushed the boundaries and was a brilliantly conceive bit of Michael Crichton techno thriller. Sometimes you might not like what Squires is doing in her books, but she never fails to provoke you. All three works were of strong merit, well researched, and with interesting characters, even too a walk on the wild side...but she just missed bull's-eye. Squires comes full circle, returning to that dark period in British History - and WOW - her fourth novel, Danelaw hits the fact she blows it away. This is not a sequel to Danegeld, so do not buy it with that impression. Danelaw stands on it on and it is Squires' best work. Rich in period lore of the British Isles and the Dane invaders during the period of Alfred, Squires delivers a powerful tale of Epona "Pony" the last of her kind, the woman who speaks to horses and lives below the great chalk horse on the Downs. She little knows she is a priestess to the Cult of Epona, the Scots Horse Goddess of War, but the fame of Epona was spread far and wide. Called 'Mare' (MAH-ray) by the Irish of Dalriada, she was the bringer of dreams good and bad. The English word nightmare is derived from her Irish name. The Goddess was even adopted by the conquering Romans whose cavalry called upon her to aid them before a charge. She was the only Celtic deity enshrined and worshipped in Rome, where they saw her as the Triple Goddess Eponae. To the Saxon Alfred, the man who would unite Britain after the Roman withdrawal, reclaim Danelaw (nearly a 1/3 of England) from the Danes, Epona was called Horsa, but whatever the name, he saw the power and potential of using Pony to achieve his destiny. Her mother had taught Pony that she must bear a girl child to continue the line from the dawn of time, the keeper of the faith of Epona. Only, she warns Pony not to care for a man else he destroy her through her heart. Pony is a smart lass, though often naive, and sees her role a simple fulfil her destiny to produce the next girl child to live under the chalk horse on the Downs, to continue the line. Though naive, she realised when Alfred appears on her doorstep that he means to use her, but in her shrewdness, she uses him. This is a fine man, a man to give her the girl child to continue the line, a man she will not care for so she will not die of a broken heart. Alfred beds her, getting his "seal" of approval from the Goddess Epona, with the intent of using that to rally the Saxons to push the Danes from Britain. When he leaves, Pony is secure her heart is safe. Only, the Viking plunders come to Pony's door and Pony's finds there is more

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    strong Dark Ages mystical romance

    Epona knows that the times are turning darker at least to followers of the Goddess as Christianity begins to sweep away the old religion that she still practices. She also realizes that her ¿gift¿ is beginning to fade and she must quickly mate with the right man to pass on her gift to her daughter just like her mother did to her. However, Pony as she is known, fears she will evanesce just like her mom so has delayed the inevitable for a decade, but the catastrophe her mother predicted seems imminent and time has run out for Pony. When Pony meets Saxon King Alfred she thinks this noble liege must be the one, but then she encounters Viking Valgar the Beast and wonders if he is the chosen. As Pony struggles to make up her mind by choosing one and leaving the other behind, her selection will impact England. She knows that even with her full of loving for one of the men, her choice must be what is best for her people and not necessarily her heart. Fans of Dark Ages mystical romances will appreciate Susan Squires¿ latest magical tale. The key to the exhilarating plot is the lead female character that seems so believable whether she talks with the animals or struggles with her fears, doubts, and uncertainties. As the author did with the delightful DANEGELD, Ms. Squires provides a strong historical romance that adds to her growing reputation for enchanting, unique stories. Harriet Klausner

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