The House of Pendragon, Book I: The Firebrand
By Debra A. Kemp
Amber Quill Press 2003
Buy Link: http://amberquill.com/Firebrand.html
Author Website: www.myspace.com/debrakemp
When I received The House of Pendragon, Book I: The Firebrand by Debra A. Kemp, I thought—okay, another battling knights, forced marriage, romance kind of thing. Not that I don’t enjoy those books, but I’ve read so many of them, I was hoping for something a little different. And this story delivered. Ms. Kemp has drawn from the too often told stories of King Arthur and created a totally unique, fresh, and realistically adult view of the uglier side of life in the dark ages. The story follows Arthur’s daughter, Lin, from slave to heir to the throne.
At the tender age of five, Lin is living in a slave hovel and awakens one morning next to the cold body of the only woman she’s ever known as mother. Unknowing of her royal lineage, the only family she has left is her seven-year-old brother. Dafydd loves his little sister and does his best to be both mother and brother. Complete opposites in temperament and personality, these two are perfect foils for one another.
In spite of all Dafydd’s attempts to caution Lin against her rebellious ways, years of taunting and ill treatment by the Queen’s sons leave her heart hardened. At the age of twelve, the Queen gives Lin to her son Modred, as his personal slave, to use in any way he likes. Horribly abused by her new Master, Lin becomes filled with hatred and a cold contempt of Modred and the Queen. With evil cruelty, Prince Modred is determined to break Lin’s spirit. Despite his attempts, Lin is just as determined to die before bowing to his will.
Ms. Kemp has given us a brilliantly flawed heroine in Lin, a slave with a stubborn will too strong to be tamed. To her, slavery is wrong. Period. She will fight it till her dying breath; no matter how much pain it brings. This aspect of Lin’s personality may not set well with some readers because it also brought abuse down on those closest to her. But I understood exactly where Lin was coming from and felt very close to her. I loved her defiance, even if foolish and self-destructive. I cheered her on all the way, even while I waited anxiously for the retribution bound to follow.
If you’re looking for a romance set in King Arthur’s court, you won’t find it here. What you will find is a beautifully written tale of the loving relationship between a brother and sister, and their daily struggle to survive the ugly, heinous life of slavery while keeping their humanity intact. Once I started The House of Pendragon, Book I: The Firebrand, I read it in one day and had trouble putting it down even long enough to take care of necessary chores. Lin and Dafydd will live long in my heart and I can’t wait to read Book II.