Review: The Recruit by Debra A. Kemp
Monday, June 9, 2008
The House of Pendragon Book II: The Recruit
by Debra A. Kemp
Amber Quill Press, 2007
288 pages, ISBN 1592796990
(Indie Excellence FINALIST 2007 Book Awards)
It took me several pages to get into "The Recruit", the second book of "The House of Pendragon"; but I found that shortly after I entered the flashback that made up 99% of the book, I was well and truly hooked. And while I would generally write the prose off as over-wrought, the tone of the language really wound up working for me.
I haven't read the previous book in the series, and Chapter 1 seemed to dump me into the deep end with characters and events I had no connection to, details of the Arthurian story I didn't remember or recognize. But this is a what-if, and things have moved beyond Arthur's reign. Lin is the daughter of King Arthur and Queen Gwenhwyfar, fostered to Arthur's sister Morgause; in this fosterage, her true identity was kept from her and she was raised as a slave to Morgause and her sons (I'm ignoring the framing story here, whose point I'm not really getting, which is many years later where Lin has her own children and is coming back to Camelot in disrepair).
"The Recruit" is a proper mid-story arc, where Lin begins to come into her own. She's brought to Camelot; her nightmares, if not behind her, are kept private (between herself and her "foster brother" Dafydd). But coming from slavery, she's not ready to be a princess (another form of slavery to her); she enjoys some of the privilege at first, but ultimately pledges herself instead as a recruit to her father's army. Lin is driven to out-perform against odds and preconceptions, and while her past does continue to haunt her she comes out the stronger for it.
For all its darkness, "The Recruit" is an uplifting and empowering story that pays homage to the Arthurian myth but also tells its own story, and brings both the Arthurian myth and its time period home in a much more real manner than I've read elsewhere.
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