This is an anthology of three books and it’s the first book I read by Judith Tarr. It is also what has kept me coming back to her time and again.
I think part of the reason is her vividness of her writing. Another is the blending of the historical and the magical into an almost living tapestry.
It is, for me, an intelligent book in that, yes, the characters have a happily ever after, but it shows the cost that they have for it.
That’s what the anthology as a whole brings to me.
Separately, the books stand alone on their own merits as well.
First is The Isle of Glass. This book shows how – although about 60 years of age already – the main character comes of age and into his own. While sent out on a mission from his Abbey, he learns more about where he might come from and who he is even as he tries to prevent a border war.
Next is The Golden Horn and it takes up a couple of years after Isle of Glass Finishes with Alfred and his traveling companion in Constantinople. Alfred once again finds himself embroiled in local politics and meeting up with friends from the past.
The Hounds of God, the final installment in the trilogy, finds the main players back on British soil, although a few will find themselves in Rome for a time. This book finds Alfred at peace with who – and what – he is. He – as well as two characters from the previous books (one has been in all three, the other in the last two) – is trying to find his family, who has been taken by the “Hounds”.
What I think symbolizes the whole trio is to paraphrase the last paragraph or two of the book. Jehan thinks that all the magic has gone from the world with Alfred and the other witchfolk taking themselves out of it. Alfred says to him “Has it really, Jehan?” What that says to me is that people can find magic in the smallest of things or the biggest – even if it isn’t magic in the traditional sense.
Alfred of St. Ruan's Abbey is a monk and a scholar, a religious man whose vocation is beyond question. But Alfred is also, without a doubt, one of the fair folk, for though he is more than seventy years old by the Abbey's records, he seems to be only a youth.
But Alfred is drawn from the haven of his monastery into his dangerous currents of politics when an ambassador from the kingdom of Rhiyana to Richard Coeur de Leon is wounded and Alfred himself is sent to complete the mission. There he encounters the Hounds of God, who believe that the fair folk have no souls, and must be purged from the Church and from the world.