Review of THE GOLDEN HORN by JUDITH TARR
(second in THE HOUND AND THE FALCON trilogy)
I started this book with no predictions, especially since Tarr avoids a formulaic feel and consistently surprises me. Strangely, I have clashing feelings about my investment level with this series. On the one hand, I didn’t find myself pulled back to the story if I stepped away from it. If I put the book down, it didn’t call me to pick it back up again and I could go quite a while before returning to it. On the other hand, whenever I did pick the book back up again I found myself immediately and entirely invested in the story.
There’s an unclear focus in terms of plot, but characters are doubtless the driving force in this series. Alf is a living riddle: fey raised as a monk. The clash between magic and religion becomes one of the most prominent, metaphoric themes in the entire series. We also met Thea in the first book, THE ISLE OF GLASS, another of Alf’s kind. Alf used to believe himself incapable of desire before meeting Thea and realizing he’s attracted to fey women, not human women. Three main plot threads dominate this second installment: a war, the continuing sexual tension between Alf and Thea, and Alf’s relationships within a family that more or less adopts him. Still a monk at heart, Alf wants to resist any carnal sin, but Thea teases him physically, emotionally, and intellectually. As for the family, Tarr introduces a handful of new and interesting characters, including a deafmute human boy that everyone believes hopelessly dumb but Alf recognizes a power humans can’t sense.
The book’s told in short chapters that keep the story clipping along a brisk pace. I suspect part of why I don’t feel a siren call luring me back to the book is that Tarr avoids any sensational feel. There aren’t any melodramatic cliffhangers luring the reader along with the promise of satisfied curiosity. Her writing has an understated quality and she’s subtle even when describing big moments. My only complaint there is sometimes I found the phrasing too subtle and often had to read very closely lest I miss something.
Again I find myself lacking in predictions about the next book, except that I expect (and hope) there will be more on the boy with unexpected gifts.