Book Review: The Du Lac Chronicles
by Mary Anne Yarde
At its heart, The Du Lac Chronicles is a love story. Forced together by the rash yet fearlessly daring decision of a young girl, our hero and heroine brave certain death by sword, arrow, dog, wolf, starvation, hypothermia, fratricide (I’ve probably missed a few)… sometimes simultaneously. I was drawn into the book by the action and pace from page one, and the developing complexities of the story held me until the very end. I’m not particularly fond of the romance genre, but even so I found myself cheering for the boy to get the girl the entire time, laughing out loud at the sometimes subtle, other times outright wit of the characters.
The plot of the book is well thought out and well executed. Telling the tale of a king who has lost his land and failed his people, we journey along with Alden Du Lac as he is given a second chance to right the wrongs he feels he caused, and for which he bears the burden of shame. There were times in the reading that I found myself confused by references to events occurring “off page”, and by bits and pieces of back-story. I wondered if I had missed something in my hasty reading because I was so carried along by the plot and simply not paying enough attention. (I do this a lot in movies too.) Figuratively shrugging my shoulders, I kept at it, assuming my questions would be cleared up at some point. And slowly but surely, I was right; my confusions cleared up. As the pieces came together, I discovered the true masterpiece in this book: the beautiful blending of a new story with the threads of a lovely, and very old, legend.
I loved Alden from the beginning. He breathed off the page immediately as a strong man, able to take brutal treatment from his captor with good humor even while in a state of despondency. He carries the weight of his responsibilities heavily, never being quite willing to release them, always wanting to redeem himself for the mistakes he insists he made.
And then there is Annis. Dear, dear Annis… There were times I wanted to throttle her. Oftentimes emotionally unstable, she repeatedly questioned the ability of Alden to be true to his word. “He loves me, he loves me not” echoed in many different scenes, and I wanted to slap her silly for it. That being said, when taking into account Annis’ life up until the point we meet her in the book, the cold, uncaring, and abused life she lived growing up, one can totally understand, from a psychological perspective, why she harbored so many insecurities. I may have been annoyed with her, but her reaction to the world and to her relationships was totally and utterly believable. She is a flawed character, and Ms. Yarde wrote her beautifully.
There is a cast of other supporting characters – kings and queens, retainers, servants and sympathizers. Each of them serves a purpose in knitting the story together, and of dropping hints about the back-story that I thought I had missed. Careful attention to these individuals and the stories they tell hint at the deeper parts of the plot if one is paying attention. Perhaps the best supporting character is Merton, a character I am told will take center stage in the next book. What we learn of him in this first novel suggests an entertaining next book!
I love historical fiction, but I also love fantasy. This book easily fits into both camps as it contains bits of historical fact woven through with folklore, even taking a step beyond the traditional telling of the story and asking what might have come next. I’m excited to see where Ms. Yarde takes these characters and their stories in future installments.
About Mary Anne Yarde
The stories of King Arthur and his Knights were a big part of Mary Anne Yarde’s childhood ~ growing up in the shadows of Glastonbury, England, it is hardly surprising. Yarde’s fascination with this time period spilled over into her adult life and she has been chasing Arthur’s shadow ever since. One day, maybe she will catch him!