NESFA Members' Reviews

coverThe King's Peace

by Jo Walton

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Tor, 2000, 416 pp, $26.95

This is a really odd book. Quite good, too, but a bit uncategorizable.

The King's Peace is set in a world parallel to ours, but not parallel in any of the usual ways. Typically an alternate history is the same as ours up to some point after which it diverges. The King's Peace takes place in a parallel history - it never was the same as ours, but it has many points of similarity. The story is a parallel story of Arthur - it's almost as if Walton took what we know of 6th century Britain and changed all the nouns, leaving everything else alone.

She did that, but she also did something more subtle. Magic works, though it's mostly small magic of the wound-healing kind. There's no Merlin analog at all, though there is someone like Morgan le Fay. Magic plays a minor part in most affairs. (It's very well done, though!)

Probably the best piece of invention is her evocation of the supernatural. Supernatural beings exist, from minor spirits of home and hearth and wood, to great and powerful beings who are spirits of the land.

There are also the priests of the White God who are monotheists. In this parallel world the White God walked on Earth as a man at the other end of the Vincan Empire. He died by stoning and his disciples wear a stone on a cord around their necks to signify their belief.

Walton deserves very great credit for making this all believable and realistic and magical all at once. No one - King, peasant, Jarnish raider, god, or priest of the White God is a cardboard figure.

This is all exceptionally well done.

By the end of The King's Peace, Urdo (the Arthur analog) has established a united kingdom and peace throughout the England-analog. There's at least one more book coming, though: the Mordred-analog is there, waiting.

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