Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Shield of Three Lions

1983, first edition, from Crown
Pamela Kaufman
Shield of Three Lions
Original and purchase price unknown
Fair condition hardcover with worn dustjacket

While I appreciate the period detail, from eating eels to studying law in Paris, I can't recommend this book because of its disturbing sexual and/or violent content.  Preteen Alix disguises herself as a boy in order to gain an audience with Richard I, who's supposed to be in London, but she ends up accompanying him on a Crusade.  Her parents have been killed and her castle sacked, so she needs Richard's support.  Her mother was not only murdered but raped, as was best friend Maisry.  Alix herself, whether dressed as a boy or a girl, is repeatedly threatened with rape, by men ranging from a dockside mob to Robin Hood!  She's also more gently lusted after by a girl her own age and by King Richard!  Except, they think she's a boy of nine or ten.

There's also a Scot named Enoch who both protects and bullies her, while wanting half her estate.  When Alex/Alix's identity is revealed, Richard agrees to Enoch marrying her, in order to claim the barony, although she by then thinks the worst of Enoch, and her consent during the ceremony is obtained at knifepoint!  Things are eventually cleared up, including that she wasn't Richard's mistress, and there is a happy ending, but by then there's such a bad taste about the book that it's hard to enjoy.

I believe this was Kaufman's debut novel.  She went on to write an Alix trilogy, but although I liked the protagonist, I can't see reading further.

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