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REVIEW

"Magnificient saga of ancient lore!"

Susan Squires is a puzzler to try and shoebox. But somehow, I think she enjoys people being unable to neatly label her and put her in pigeonhole.

Her first novel was a powerhouse debut. DANEGELD dealt with a period in Britain's history generally ignored (last one I can recall was Johanna Lynsay in her Medieval Trilogy and that was a long time ago!). It was grimly realistic, provoking - possibly too grim and provoking for more timid readers. Squires meets the ugly realities of that period head on, does not flinch or back off just to make it easier on the reader. I am glad to see savvy Dorchester Publishing giving her 'elbow room' and backing her bold prose.

Her second, SACRAMENT gave us a thinking woman's vampire tale. Not dwelling on the vampire aspect of the story, she provoked - I often wonder if provoke is not Squire's middle name - you into looking at good and evil - not of the vampire, but of desires of the individuals, those acted upon and those repressed, and the choices those desire can drive one to make. Many bemoaned this was not a traditional vampire tale, to which Squires quite blithely thanked you. Her third work, BODY ELECTRIC, pushed all the boundaries and was a brilliantly conceive bit of Michael Crichton techno- thriller. Sometimes, you might not LIKE what Squires is doing in her books, but she never fails to PROVOKE you, challenge you, to make you think.

Squires comes full circle, returning to that dark period in British History - and WOW - her fourth novel, DANELAW hits bull's-eye. This is not a sequel to DANEGELD, so do not buy it with that impression.

DANELAW stands on it on and it is Squires' best work. Rich in lore of the British Isles and the Dane invaders during the period of Alfred, Squires delivers a powerful tale of Epona "Pony", the last of her kind, a horsewhisper who lives below the great chalk horse on the Downs. She little knows she is a priestess to the Cult of Epona, the Scots Horse Goddess of War, but the fame of the Goddess Epona was spread far and wide. Called 'Mare' (MAH-ray) by the Irish of Dalriada, the Goddess was the bringer of dreams - good and bad. The English word "nightmare" is derived from her Irish name. The Goddess was even adopted by the conquering Romans whose cavalry called upon her to aid them before a charge. She was the only Celtic deity enshrined and worshipped in Rome. To the Saxon Alfred, the man who would unite Britain after the Roman withdrawal and reclaim Danelaw (nearly a 1/3 of England) from the Danes, Epona was called Horsa. Whatever the name, he saw the power of using Pony to achieve his destiny.

Pony is a smart lass, though often naive, and sees her role a simple one...to fulfill her destiny to produce the next girl child to live under the chalk horse on the Downs, to continue the line. Though unworldly, she realized when Alfred appears on her doorstep he means to use her. In her shrewdness, she uses him to give her the child.

Only, the Viking plunders come, and Pony's finds there is more to fulfilling a prophecy than conceiving a child. The pawn of Valgar, the Dane leader, she expects barbarians who would take her prison and try to steal her herd of magical horses. Instead, she finds a man of wisdom, fire, and strength.

And he knows the way of the Horse. A man who could steal her heart.

Squires gives us a rousing Saga of one woman set on filling her destiny, caught between the clash of Saxon and Viking cultures, and two equally determined men, each bent on making a kingdom in Britain. Her characters are vivid, well drawn, the research impressive. I have dealt with this history & lore for decades, even wrote an award winning series of essays on Epona being the mother-face of the triple goddess, linking her with Elphame and the Cailleach. Squires impressed me with her dealing with the period and the legend of Epona as few writers could.

I simply could not put this book down.

Posted March 28, 2003

Reviewed by Deborah Macgillivray
Posted January 3, 2007

SUMMARY

Out of Darkness, light. War swept England, and the dark ages grew darker as Vikings put Saxon strongholds to the torch and promised new rule. The horde found Epona, Daughter of the Goddess, on the hill beneath the Sign of the White Horse. There she had lived, awaiting the man who was fated to give her a child. In Viking fires burned her destiny.

 

Danelaw
by Susan Squires

Love Spell
February 1, 2003
Available: February 2, 2003
ISBN #0843951249
EAN #9780843951240
389 pages
Paperback
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Other Books by
Susan Squires

The Mists of Time
A Twist In Time
Time for Eternity
Dead After Dark
One With the Darkness
One With the Shadows
One With The Night
Love At First Bite
The Burning
The Hunger
The Companion
No More Lies
The Only One
Body Electric
Sacrament
Danegeld


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