Tuesday, October 1, 2002

Ceridwen of Kilton, by Octavia Randolph

Reviewed by Lauren O'Brien (Reprinted by permission of the author

Ceridwen of Kilton follows the events surrounding Ceridwen, a young woman who has come to live in the village of Kilton after rescuing her husband (part of the Kilton ruling family) from the Danes - the most feared and hated of people in 9th Century England. Gyric, Ceridwen's husband, is the younger son of the Lord of Kilton, and as his wife, Ceridwen has responsibilities to the village. She attends these with care, though you get the impression she is unsure in her position in the village - being something of an outsider. This is the story of Ceridwen's life in the village for about 5 years. We see her love for her husband, maimed by his captors and unfit to take leadership of his home or his people, and his bitterness at his condition. We see passion and anguish in Ceridwen's relationships with the men from her past and present and from her compassion. There is also action a-plenty as the people of Kilton struggle to preserve their homes and lives while supporting the King of England. The characters in "Ceridwen of Kilton" are many and quite diverse, but each is represented with precision and care. These are possibly the most convincing I've come across. Ms Randolph has a rare talent for bringing her characters to life - these are real people. Each character has their own distinct emotions and motivations. Ceridwen, the character we grow to know the best has deep and conflicting thoughts. She has flashes of insight and moments of deep confusion. There are no dramatic flourishes from any of the characters - Ms Randolph has managed to bring the story and the personalities out through small gestures and human emotion. And for me, this subtlety is one of the best aspects of the book.

Another excellently handled area was the historical accuracy. I doubt that a historian would have anything to quibble over with regards to the accuracy. Different from the usual offering of sappy Dark-Age 'historical' tales, this really is a work of art. The interesting, if small conflicts between the church and the people's close Pagan past are handled with intelligence and were down to earth. I was unable to put this book down after the first chapter. I shall certainly be buying the next book in the series and would certainly recommend Ms Randolph as someone to look out for. Full marks all round." -Lauren O'Brien, Hampshire, United Kingdom

http://www.octavia.net contains more information about all Octavia Randolph's fiction and her factual essays about the Anglo-Saxon and Viking eras