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When Wynter was five, her father dressed her in a little red coat, put her on the back of his horse, and took her on a picnic. Wynter remembered the drowsy movement of the horse beneath her, and leaning back into the warm support of her father as they travelled the forest paths. She remembered his strong arms encompassing her as he held the reins, the scent of woodshavings and resin from his clothes. She remembered the light coming through the foliage, and how it had moved across her hands, so small on the big leather pommel of Lorcan’s saddle.
Lorcan’s friend, Jonathon, had been with them, and his sons, Razi and Alberon. All of them were happy, and laughing, which was something they seemed to do quite often back then. Just two friends and their beloved children out for a jaunt on a warm autumn day, getting the best of the good weather before winter finally tightened its grip. Looking back on it, Wynter knew there must have been some kind of military presence with them, but she had no recollection of soldiers or any kind of guards. Perhaps she was so used to the presence of soldiers around her father’s good friend that she no longer noticed them. She never thought of Jonathon as “the King” back then. She recalled only thinking of him as Jon, that big, golden-headed man, so quick to lose his temper but just as quick to show affection. He had been best friend to her own father, and father to her two best friends, those brothers of her heart: the dark, serious, protective Razi, and the grinningly impulsive, loving Alberon.
Razi had kept trotting on ahead, his brown face all alight at the unexpected freedom of the day. Alberon was for the first time astride his own horse, and Wynter remembered watching with amused envy as he urged the little creature on, attempting to keep pace with his older half-brother. She recalled him calling anxiously across the sun-dappled air, “Razi! Razi! Don’t leave me!” and Razi’s smile as he turned back to wait.
They had stopped at a ford, and the men had stripped to their underthings and run into the shallow water, whooping and splashing and laughing at the cold. Wynter had hopped from foot to foot on the edge of the water, watching as Alberon threw himself into his father’s arms. Jon had flung him high into the sunshine, Albi’s small face luminous with sun-glitter and joy.
A warm presence by her side, and she had looked up into Razi’s smiling face.
“Come on, darling.” He had offered his hand. “It’s only cold for a moment.” He led her carefully into the stream, her hand held tight in his, then her father had waded over and hoisted them, one under each water-chilled arm, and carried them out into the bright water to teach them how to swim.
Almost eleven years later, Wynter Moorehawke sat on the warm, smooth-pebbled beach of a similar ford and listened to the furtive rustling of the surrounding forest. Half her mind was on the unintelligible conversation of the Merron warriors who sat on the rocks to her right, the other half on the forest shadows and all the lurking possibilities they might contain.
Down by the water’s edge, the now twenty-year-old Razi crouched on his haunches and frowned out across the shallow water. For a blissful moment it seemed as though he might actually relax and sit down, but Wynter knew that he was unlikely to stay still for long. Sure enough, the dark young man almost immediately ran his hands through his hair, sighed in frustration, and rose, once again, to his feet.
Do not start pacing, thought Wynter, but Razi, of course, did just that.
His lanky silhouette stalked out of sight at the corner of her eye, then stalked right back in again, just as quick, and Wynter had to turn her head so that she wouldn’t be driven mad by his ceaseless prowling. Since Embla’s death, a deep and angry river of impatience ran very close to Razi’s surface, and it manifested itself in constant, irritating motion. Wynter felt genuine sympathy for Razi’s loss, but just at that moment, the crunch, crunch, crunch of his footsteps on the pebble shore was grating on her already stretched nerves. She tightened her jaw against the urge to snap at him.
An irritated sigh drifted across from the group of warriors. “Tabiyb,” rumbled Úlfnaor, “sit down before I take back of my sword to your head.” Razi glowered and the black-haired Merron leader frowned. “Sit,” he ordered. “You wear me out.” Razi sat, and Úlfnaor nodded in approval. “They be back soon,” he said. “You take this time to rest.”
The big man sounded calm, but even as he spoke, his dark eyes roamed the far bank with restless anxiety. His warriors sat tensely around him, the three women sharpening their swords, the three men staring at the trees on the other side of the ford. They had set out that morning expecting to make contact with Alberon and to engage him in diplomatic talks, so men and women alike were magnificently dressed in the pale green embroidered tunics and britches of the Merron formal costume, their arms and hands and necks heavy with silver tribal jewellery. But the day had grown old with no contact from the Rebel Prince, and evening was fast approaching. Wynter was beginning to fear that they had been misled.
She met the eye of the Merron healer, Hallvor. The sinewy woman smiled reassuringly, but Wynter could see the tension in her face. Úlfnaor’s two giant warhounds were snuffling about at the water’s edge. They looked up as Hallvor rose to her feet. She sheathed her sword as she made her way to the shore, and the dogs wagged their tails, hoping for action. But Hallvor just laid a callused hand on each of their wiry heads and stood watching the trees on the other side. She murmured unhappily in Merron. Úlfnaor answered in soothing tones.
Wynter wished that Christopher was here, and not just because she wanted him to translate. She frowned across the water, willing him to return. Behind her, the gravel crunched as Razi began to move about once again. His long shadow fell across Wynter and he hunkered by her side, his elbows on his knees, his eyes on the far bank.
“I do not think we will be lucky here either,” he said quietly.
Wynter nodded. Since early morning, the Merron had been making their way along this river, stopping at prearranged rendezvous points, waiting for Alberon’s men to show up and guide them to the rebel camp. This was the fourth such designated meeting place and it, like all the others, had proved deserted. They had been waiting for well over an hour now, but still Úlfnaor was loath to move on. Apparently if this rendezvous proved a wash-out, there was only one remaining point at which they could hope to meet their guides. If that, too, proved deserted, then the Merron’s diplomatic mission would be a failure. The Northern warriors would have to return to their homeland with their duty unfulfilled, and Razi, Wynter and Christopher would be no closer to finding Alberon’s camp than they had been almost three weeks previously.
“Chris and Sól have been away too long,” murmured Wynter.
Razi just sighed and rubbed his face. He did not bother to reply. He’d heard enough of this from her, but Wynter didn’t care. She was prickly with anxiety. There were less than four hours of daylight left, and she wanted Christopher where she could see him. She wanted him by her side, not out in the woods where the Loups-Garous might be prowling and where the King’s men were still actively hunting the rebels.
“Úlfnaor should never have allowed Chris and Sól out there alone,” she said. “Reconnoitre be damned! Truth be told, I think he let them go just to shut the two of them up and give them something to do.”
Razi huffed in agreement. Christopher was an incorrigibly reckless fellow at the best of times, and as for Sólmundr—since the loss of his beloved Ashkr, the Merron warrior seemed possessed of a dangerous, unquenchable kind of restlessness. He and Christopher seemed to spark each other off, and both were champing at the bit, longing for action. They had set off into the forest with far too much enthusiasm and far too little caution for Wynter’s liking. She wished they would come back. Even with Sólmundr’s warhound, Boro, by their side, she feared her two friends were horribly vulnerable out there.
Wynter was opening her mouth to say so, when down by the river’s edge, Hallvor and the warhounds suddenly came to attention. Frowning, the healer took a step forward, her eyes on the trees. The warhounds growled, and Hallvor gestured sharply to quiet them.
Razi and Wynter rose to their feet. On the rocks, the other Merron stood up, swords in hand.
“Cad é, a Hallvor?” asked Úlfnaor.
Hallvor shushed him, her attention fixed ahead. Then she pointed into the trees.
“Coinín,” she said. “Agus é ag rith.”
It was Christopher, running soundless and very fast through the trees, his long, black hair flying behind him, his slim arms and legs pumping. He burst into the sunlight and crossed the shallow ford in a glitter of splashing footsteps. Boro and Sólmundr came racing after.
“Quick!” hissed Christopher. “Someone’s coming, and they ain’t no diplomatic party!”
The Merron spun for their horses, but Sólmundr called them back. He ran straight up the rocks and flung himself on the weapons pile, snatching up his longbow and arrows. His companions swerved to join him and he began hissing breathless explanations as they loaded up.
Christopher’s grey eyes met Wynter’s as he slid to a halt at her side.
“No time to run,” he said. “Make a stand! They’re right behind us.”
She drew her sword. “How many?”
“Have I time to load the matchlock?” asked Razi.
Christopher shook his head to both questions. “No idea how many, don’t even think they know we’re here. But they’re heading straight for us and they’re in a damned big hurry. No time for the gun, Razi. Just draw your swords, the two of you, and stay behind the archers.”
Sólmundr shouted, and Christopher spun just in time to catch the crossbow which the warrior had flung to him. Christopher’s quiver of black bolts came sailing after, and Wynter caught it one-handed while Christopher pulled the lever to draw his bow. She handed him a bolt. He loaded the bow as he spun to face the ford and Wynter stepped to his side, her sword in hand.
Sólmundr shook his sandy hair from his eyes and drew his longbow, sighting on the trees. The Merron spread out along the beach, their longbows at the ready, their warhounds standing in disciplined silence at their sides. The wood and leather of the longbows creaked as the warriors put just enough tension on the strings to keep the arrows in place, not yet expending their energies on a full draw. The buzzing quiet of the autumn evening settled around them as they waited.
Christopher nestled the crossbow into the hollow of his shoulder. He settled his stance. “Here they come,” he whispered. Wynter could hear them now, coming up fast. So different to Christopher’s earlier silent approach, this was the noise of someone smashing heedlessly through the heavy forest. It was the sound of someone panicked, someone desperate. The Merron pulled their longbows to full draw and levelled their aim.
The man who crashed through the trees didn’t register them. He came staggering from the shade into the sunlight and splashed halfway across the bright water without even noticing the row of imposing warriors standing on the far bank, tracking him with their arrows. His head was down, his arms wrapped around his belly, and all his energies seemed taken with simply putting one foot in front of the other.
“Hold!” cried Wynter. “You hold now!”
The man spun in response to her voice and staggered to a halt. Once his forward momentum deserted him, he seemed to lose his ability to stand and he immediately dropped to his knees and collapsed face first into the shallow river. The water around him instantly turned red.
There was a moment of stunned silence as the company watched the man’s blood swirl and spread and trail away in dark ribbons from his body. Then Razi threw his sword aside with a clatter and waded into mid stream to roll the man onto his back.
Wynter had assumed the poor fellow to be unconscious, but as soon as Razi lifted his face from the water the man took a gasping breath and clutched Razi’s coat with a bloody fist.
“Help me,” he rasped. “Help me…” His half-opened eyes were on the Merron, who had switched their aim back to the trees and were dividing their attention between the newcomer and whoever might appear in pursuit of him.
Razi began to heave the fellow up and Wynter ran to help him. Christopher splashed out after her. Without dropping his guard, he circled around in front of her and Razi, his crossbow aimed at the far bank.
“Get yourselves behind the archers,” he ordered roughly.
“Cavalry… cavalry…” moaned the wounded man as they dragged him to shore. “Escape… the Prince.”
Razi met Wynter’s eyes across the top of the man’s head as they laid him on the warm stones of the beach. “You are a member of the King’s cavalry?” he murmured, turning the man over, and opening his jacket to check his injuries. Wynter winced at the sight of a pulsing wound in the poor fellow’s side. She had to look away from the mess of exposed bone and bulging organs.
“I will fetch your medical bag,” she said.
But Razi shook his head, his face grim, and Wynter knew there was nothing that could be done.
Razi leant close. “You are a member of the cavalry?” he repeated gently.
“Yes… no… not… they’re after me. Oh Jesu, help me…” The man began trying to crawl away, his bloody hands scrabbling on the smooth stones, his face twisted in pain. Blood pumped in horrible quantities from his wound and pooled on the rocks around him.
“Shhh,” said Wynter, laying her hand on his face. “Lie easy… lie easy, friend.” The man stilled, and rested his head on the stones with a moan. “Who pursues you?” she asked.
“The cavalry… the cavalry… the King’s men…”
Wynter glanced at Razi. The King’s men.
“You work for my brother,” said Razi softly.
The man looked up into Razi’s dark face for the first time, and his eyes widened in fear. “Oh God help me,” he whispered. “You’re the Arab.” He moaned and closed his eyes. “Oh, I am lost.”
“My father’s men pursue you?” asked Razi. “You seek the safety of the rebel camp?”
“The Lord Razi is hoping to meet his brother at the rebel camp,” whispered Wynter. “He wishes to reconcile him to the King. We can take you to safety, if you will but show us the way to the Prince.” But the man just turned his face into the stones, convinced now that he was amongst enemies, determined to speak no more.
“Razi,” said Christopher, glancing back at his friend. “The Merron cannot allow the King’s men to take them.”
Sólmundr and Úlfnaor looked over their shoulders at Razi. The rest of the Merron, unable to understand this conversation, kept aim on the trees, but their eyes flicked anxiously between their leaders and the dark-skinned man they’d sworn to protect.
“Razi,” insisted Christopher, “if your father’s men arrive, we must fire on them! Else you are condemning these people to death—and your mission is failed.”
Razi shook his head and would not lift his eyes from the wounded man.
Wynter laid a hand on his arm. She looked up into Christopher’s pained face.
“The King’s men will kill us, lass,” said Christopher. “We must fight them or die; there ain’t no way around it.”
“Others is coming!” cried Sólmundr, and Wynter leapt to her feet at the sounds of riders approaching fast through the trees. She weighed her sword in her hand and stepped to Christopher’s side again, her heart hammering with anger and with fear. Dear God, had it truly come to this? Must she now face loyal soldiers of the crown and kill them or die?
The Merron ordered their dogs to heel, and once again pulled their longbows to full draw. A flash of sun on metal showed through the shifting leaves of the forest as dark shapes advanced upon them. Úlfnaor, his huge arms quivering with the strain, held his aim and murmured softly to his warriors. He was obviously telling them, “Wait… wait…”
Wynter crouched low. She brought her sword up. She had made up her mind that she would not die here. She would not die!
Christopher looked back at Razi, wanting his permission to fire.
Razi bowed his head, his eyes squeezed shut. Then he snatched his sword, rose to his feet and stood ready at Christopher’s side. Christopher took aim just as the King’s soldiers burst through the trees.
There were only two of them, and they entered the ford with an almost childlike abandon. Wynter knew that she would never forget the looks on their faces when, expecting nothing more than a wounded soldier fleeing on foot, they suddenly found themselves confronted with a row of hard-faced archers.
There was just a brief moment of suspension, the smallest fraction of time, then the youngest soldier grabbed for his sword. Christopher’s crossbow bolt took him between his eyes and carried him backwards from his horse. All other sound was buried in the heavy twock of longbows, and the hiss and thud of Merron arrows seeking and finding their target. The soldiers’ limp bodies tumbled to the water with mighty splashes. Their blood washed downstream just as the rebel soldier’s had done.
Wynter’s sword-arm dropped to her side and she watched the King’s men die.
The magnificent cavalry horses staggered under a second hail of missiles. They fell, and their blood mingled with that of their riders, eddying out into the clear water to flood the river with scarlet. The stain rapidly filled the ford, swirling and flowing, and stretching its arms outwards until it lapped in bright, sun-dappled wavelets on the shore and coloured the heedless stones at Wynter’s feet.
Behind her, Razi turned from this spectacle of death, and knelt, once again, by the rebel soldier’s side. Wynter watched as he closed the poor fellow’s lifeless eyes. For the briefest of moments Christopher stayed at Wynter’s side, his arm a sympathetic warmth around her waist. Then he splashed out into the scarlet ford and began to help the Merron harvest their fallen arrows.
Excerpted from The Rebel Prince by Kiernan, Celine Copyright © 2010 by Kiernan, Celine. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted February 21, 2012
Posted August 7, 2011
This is the third and final book of the trilogy, some spoilers for the previous books could be present.
Wynter, Razi, and Christopher are traveling with the Merron warriors, who are on their diplomatic mission to find the Rebel prince. They have all started to come to terms with the happenings of The Crowded Shadows. In trying to find the Rebel Prince they try different rendezvous points with no avail. Finally, they come across Alberon's military men and make it to camp. After some quick work with words Razi and Wynter make it to see Alberon. What they learn of his plans surprise and astound them. Could they work? Would they even want them to work? With everything that has happened between Prince Alberon and his father King Jonathan, could they repair the damage done to the kingdom? Razi and Wynter have the fate of the kingdom laying in their hands.
This was a wonderful read for me. One I barreled quickly through, not wanting to put the book down. I have enjoyed these characters and the world here since the first book. This was a wonderful end to an amazing trilogy. I'm still a little sad to see it end, but in this book all the remaining questions are answered and wraps up gracefully. And yes, we learn about the Bloody Machine talked about in the first book. We also get to see more of the Merron ways, which I grew to love in The Crowded Shadows.
The characters have grown in strength through these books. Especially Wynter. Wynter has grown into a wise and brave young woman. Not that she wasn't brave in the beginning, but she has learned much on her path and accepted a lot. She has found love and hate in these woods and how to express both. We get to meet one of Wyn's old friends here, one of the talking cats she had taken care of when at the castle before her and her father went North. And we learn more of Christopher and his hidden secret, and how Wyn deals with it. Razi is the constant rock and voice of reason, as always, but there is something that will shake his world as well. Then, we finally get to meet the Rebel Prince Alberon.
Hmmm, yes. Alberon. I have to say when we first meet Alberon I had wondered of his state of mind. He seemed as he could be a little off from all the war and bloodshed he has seen at such a young age. But as the book went on I learned of why the Prince is the way he is and that he is aware of it. But, he has to be strong and almost cold as he is the heir to the throne... or so he believes.
The story starts right in the thick of the woods with trouble all around. We get the feel of the danger in the woods still. Even when in the camp there is always danger lurking around. And even the different agents from different kingdoms and areas of this world there is friction between them.
I also enjoyed the different degrees and angles in which we see danger coming at the main characters. All the characters are tested to their limits. We even get to see at the end, the characters that survive, a close future to see what has come of them.
Lovely ending to a wonderful trilogy. I'm proud to say this is one that will stay on the shelves for years to come and I will revisit again and again. I will be keeping my eye out for any future work by Celine Kiernan.
Posted June 17, 2011
I enjoyed reading this final entry in the Moorehawke trilogy much more than I did the first two. The pace was a lot faster, the objectives of the characters more clear, and we finally get to find out a lot of the answers that the first two books made us ask.
However there are a couple of things I didn't really like. For example there are a considerable amount of storylines that are concluded "Off-Page". They results of these storylines are all pretty much mentioned in the epilogue, but not with the prominence that they needed concluding. One of them was quite major to this book, and the other is one that has been increasingly important throughout the trilogy, until in this book it becomes Christopher's Only real story.
That is, of course, his relationship with the Loup-Garous. I think I spelt that right. In the previous books it was interesting, but in this one it becoems overwhelming. It's almost all that drives him, and it's almost a cmplete change of character. Which I found quite sad, as I liked Christopher in the previous books. While we're under the spoiler alert, and this is a fairly big one, I though that Razi's amnesia was a cliché idea, and to be frank - pointless. For me, it only subtracted from the story and I really don't see what it was for.
---END OF SPOILER ---
What I DID like is the Merron. I always like the Merron. and although they don't feature as strongly in this book, I enjoyed those scenes where they did. Unfortunately I felt that their story could have used a little more tying up. Which is really the main issue with this book. It has too many loose ends, and the epilogue is a bit too complicated to be a nice ending. You have to try and think. The Ending of the final chapter would have been really good for the first or second in a trilogy, but I didn't like it for the last.
There are good points to the book - A Character named Mary and Alberon's Cat. Particularly the cat actually, I love the way cats are portrayed in this series. it's quite Novel. I was hoping it would be more important to the trilogy, as it was introduced early on, but it's a nice touch. And the writing style and flow in this novel is particularly good. I never really found myself rereading anything to make sure I'd got it right, or because it didn't make sense. It just worked.
If this was the first in the Trilogy, then I would recommend it whole-heartedly. But it isn't. I did really enjoyed this book, and if you started the trilogy, then it gets better as you move along. But I don't think that I would recommend reading the trilogy as a whole. It's just not finished.
Posted August 29, 2010
Though young in years, the trio matured rapidly from a harrowing experiences while on their quest (see The Crowded Shadows and The Poison Throne). Now the cat whisperer Wynter Moorehawke, the illegitimate Prince Razi Kingsson and the musician Christopher Garron feel the worst is over as they finally believe they have found the hidden camp of the rebellious Prince Alberon who welcomes his half-brother and his traveling companions.
Wynter, Razi and Christopher try to persuade Alberon to make peace with his father for the good of the kingdom. Instead Alberon ignores the pleas of the teens as he has BHAG to ally with his country's enemies in order to build a military that will enable him to take the throne. Those with Alberon in his encampment are an eerie lot as they proclaim being his supporters while encouraging death and destruction to anyone not allied with them.
The final tale in the Moorehawke Trilogy is fast-paced, loaded with action and blood, but clearly character driven. The three teens are stunned (as will be readers) as the Alberon they envisioned (over the first two books) is nothing like the real flesh as he has hardened his heart and turned rigid in regards to his enemies who are anyone not overtly friend. Although the ending seems rushed, fans of the saga will appreciate this terrific political military fantasy as the final tale like its predecessors is a wonderful entry to a strong series.
Posted February 5, 2011
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Posted December 8, 2010
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Posted December 28, 2010
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