Widow and the King

Widow and the King

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by John Dickinson

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This stunning book opens 12 years after the end of The Cup of the World and tells the story of Ambrose, son of Phaedra and last in the king’s line, who is living exiled with his mother in the dilapidated manor of Tarceny.

Ambrose’s life is threatened by the hooded priest of the Undercraft, an ancestral spirit of pure evil who must end…  See more details below


This stunning book opens 12 years after the end of The Cup of the World and tells the story of Ambrose, son of Phaedra and last in the king’s line, who is living exiled with his mother in the dilapidated manor of Tarceny.

Ambrose’s life is threatened by the hooded priest of the Undercraft, an ancestral spirit of pure evil who must end Ambrose’s life in order to survive himself. And even when Ambrose is hidden within the house of the Widow of Develin, a hallowed place of learning and haven of education, the priest and his minions slowly and subtly infiltrate within, subverting the minds of those most educated and powerful and leaving Ambrose in mortal danger.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

This is an especially long, complicated novel—following The Cup of the World, also lengthy. Since adult characters are equally important as the younger ones, these novels could have been marketed as adult, not YA, fantasies. Phaedra is the heroine of the first book, and it is her son Ambrose, whose life has been threatened since he was a toddler, who is the main character in this sequel, which opens as Ambrose is 13 years old, eager to see a wider world than the isolated farm where he and his mother have been hiding. A strange knight enters their world, on the trail of his own son. This starts a chain of events that drives Ambrose away, with death and evil at his heels. Eventually, he finds refuge in the fiefdom of the Widow, who is seeking a way to avoid the endless wars that destroy all those in the kingdom. Since Ambrose himself is the son of a king, it is necessary to protect his identity to save him from assassination. The 15-year-old daughter of the Widow has a mind of her own. She falls in love with a scholar, and refuses to enter into an arranged marriage with the current brutal king. Their lives are all threatened as the Widow herself is murdered. In time Ambrose uses some wisdom that may help him to break the cycle of violence and restore justice and peace. Through it all weaves the Undercraft, the magic that works to destroy all who use it to gain power. John Dickinson is the son of the author Peter Dickinson and obviously has storytelling in his blood. He is a gifted writer, able to create a detailed fantasy with believable flesh-and-blood humans inhabiting a strange world. (Sequel to The Cup of the World). KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior andsenior high school students. 2005, Random House, David Fickling, 613p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Claire Rosser
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-This intricate and lushly written sequel to The Cup of the World (Random, 2004) continues the story 10 years later. Phaedra, widow of the hated, self-proclaimed king, has fled her homeland for her husband's desolate stronghold in the mountains. She and their son, Ambrose, 12, live in constant fear of Paigan, the boy's uncle across nine generations who has remained alive for 300 years with the help of under-craft, a powerful black magic. For the past 10 years he has been trapped in a magical circle of stones, but he's determined to escape and kill Ambrose in order to prolong his own life. When the vengeful, power-hungry son of an old friend of Phaedra's discovers under-craft, he helps Paigan escape and Ambrose has to flee for his life. He finds refuge in the household of the Widow of Develin and trains as a scholar under an assumed name. The Widow's headstrong daughter, Sophie, takes an interest in him while falling in love with an older scholar with ties to Ambrose's past. In doing so, they become unwitting pawns in the warring factions within the Kingdom. This coming-of-age tale explores the themes of power and the price that's paid for it, revenge and forgiveness, all set in a fully realized medieval world where philosophy and religion dominate. The characters aren't always likable, but sophisticated readers will empathize with their struggles and find themselves drawn into this richly imagined fantasy world. To fully appreciate this complex series, it's recommended that the books be read in order.-Sharon Rawlins, Piscataway Public Library, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In an intelligent, literate sequel to The Cup of the World (2004), Ambrose, the adolescent scion of Tarceny, must pay the price of his deceased father's foray into politics and sorcery: raised in exile, keeping constant watch over his demonic ancestor, the secret instigator of the civil strife despoiling the feudal kingdom. When this monster escapes, Ambrose flees the numerous forces, human and magical, seeking his death; he fetches up at the court of the Widow of Develin, the last bastion of learning in a benighted land, just as evil magic and human despair join to bring it to ruin. Now on the run with Sophia, the Widow's willful, passionate daughter, the pair must rally old allies and antagonists against the greater enemy-and their own, too-human failings. As the dark, twisty narrative alternates between brooding menace and brutal violence, leading to a painfully bittersweet climax, this weighty tome does not flinch from the hard questions-about faith, reason, authority, justice, forgiveness and (above all) choice-nor from ambiguous, even contradictory answers. Elegant, elliptical prose weaves these larger issues within the threads of a lushly detailed world of psychologically rich characters. Only the protagonists' ages mark this as a YA novel; its subtle depths demand careful attention that will reward any thoughtful devotee of speculative fiction. (Fantasy. YA)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

John Dickinson is the author of The Cup of the World. He lives in Exeter, England.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Widow and the King 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago