Monday, February 27, 2012

The Feathered Edge: A Woman Warrior and The Horned King

"The Woman Who Fell In Love With The Horned King" is the second story with a woman warrior-as-champion/paladin. One of the most interesting things about putting together these anthologies of romantic, swashbuckling fantasy (2 volumes of Lace and Blade, and now The Feathered Edge: Tales of Magic, Love, and Daring) is the synchronicity -- or parallelism -- or "great minds work alike" thematic resonances. The first had 2 stories about Spanish highwaymen, the second 2 stories with Chinese generals. I'm not in the least surprised, but I am delighted and a bit awestruck by the way life works. The cover for The Feathered Edge could illustrate either this story or Sean McMullen's "Culverelle." You get to pick.

Now to the story. No, wait, background! I've loved Judith Tarr's work since I picked up A Wind In Cairo when it first came out. The horse got me into the book, as I'm a sucker for well-written horse characters, but the sheer mastery of storycraft, the depth and nuance, the use of language, all kept me wanting more. None of this should come as a surprise. Judy knows more about horses than any ten fantasy writers put together, and what she doesn't know, one or another of her nine amazing Lipizzan horses will enlighten us about. She's written the best guide to horses in writing I've ever seen, Writing Horses; The Fine Art of Getting It Right, and if you are a writer and need a horse in your story, it's a must-read.

Capria and Khepera
The other thing about Judy's work is that her careful attention to detail -- the kind of detail not for detail's-sake but that evokes a vivid world beyond the page -- carries over to historical background, culture, world-building, and character. You can read a sampling of her short work free on Book View Cafe here.I've never read anything of hers that's remotely generic, even when it falls solidly within a genre. Her "Alamut" books were among the first to portray Muslim cultures in a positive, yet humanly complex way.

One of the self-indulgent luxuries of editing is being able to contact the writers-of-my-dreams and say, "Hey, want to come play?" It takes a certain amount of chutzpah, it does. So I asked. Judy said yes, and sent me this wonderful, sweeping, heroic tale that reminds me of the best of the women-martial-arts stories from Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword & Sorceress series. Judy's heroine is no bronze-bikini-clad superwoman, but a character set firmly within her world, with hopes and disappointments and family obligations, cognizant of both her strengths and her limitations. And The Horned King, oh my! You'll just have to read to the story...

If "The Woman Who Fell In Love With The Horned King" leaves you, like me, wanting more, rejoice! It's set in the world of The Serpent And The Rose, under the pseudonym of Kathleen Bryan.

The beautiful photo of Capria and Khepera is by Lynne Glazer, used with permission. See more of her work here:

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