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Cadnum, Michael. The dragon throne.

CADNUM, Michael. The dragon throne. Penguin, Viking, 224p. c2005. 0-670-03631-5. $16.99. JS *

In this final volume of a trilogy that began with the National Book Award finalist The Book of the Lion and continued with The Leopard Sword, young Crusader squires Edmund and Hubert have finally made their way back to England, where Prince John is plotting to wrest power from his absent brother, King Richard. The rousing opening scene is a joust to the death between Hubert and a knight, for the chance to save Edmund's life, as he has been accused of theft. Hubert wins, of course, but in the melee that follows, a scholar is badly injured. His daughter Ester, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Eleanor, swears that if her father recovers she will undertake a pilgrimage to Rome. Meanwhile, the two squires are knighted by Prince John, who wants to make them his vassals. When they make clear they are loyal to King Richard, and then set out for Nottingham, Prince John sends men to kill them, and another gritty, gripping, and altogether believable battle scene ensues. The wise queen assigns Edmund and Hubert to escort Ester to Rome, to get them away from Prince John. However, their dangerous journey across the Alps is compounded by the men Prince John sends to kill them, as well as by murderous bandits--and further dangers await in Rome, where it is Edmund's turn to fight a joust.

This is marvelous historical fiction, well plotted and well researched, with many details of clothing, speech, songs, weaponry, and food. The reader is easily convinced that this is what the Middle Ages were really like, in all their dirty glory. Cadnum continues to explore the brutality of fighting and war; as one character warns, "Fighting is not the stuff you've heard of in songs." Edmund, our hero here, fights only when he must, and he comes across as a noble soul; a sweet romance blossoms between him and Ester. Readers will be captivated by Edmund's brave adventures, even if they haven't read the previous volumes. Paula Rohrlick, KLIATT

J--Recommended for junior high school students. The contents are of particular interest to young adolescents and their teachers.

S--Recommended for senior high school students.

*--The asterisk highlights exceptional books.
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Author:Rohrlick, Paula
Publication:Kliatt
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2005
Words:375
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