January 06, 2014

The Gypsy King

by Maureen Fergus
Razorbill
978-0-14-318315-0
434 pp.
Ages 12-16
2012

A powerful high fantasy based in the land of Glyndoria, in which the five tribes–Khan warriors, Erok, Gypsies, Gorgishmen and Marinese–live in strife, The Gypsy King may look like a historical romance with its medieval setting and a beautiful young woman in a golden gown clutching a dagger, a once commonly-used weapon.  While there is an element of romance to the story, which adds humour and much spark, an adventurous quest for both truth and a pool of healing takes The Gypsy King into a whole new realm.

Persephone is an enslaved young woman who knows nothing of her heritage except being sold, traded or lost in a card game and working in a manor house, a tavern, and even the horrible Mines of Torodania.  When a chicken thief she meets returns masquerading as a lord and buys her freedom, Persephone is both perplexed and trepidatious, though she is reassured by three animals that follow her: her dog Cur, a hawk named Ivan and a broken-down horse named Fleet.  Luckily for Persephone that these animals are there as the chicken thief and false lord is actually a Gypsy, named Azriel, and Gypsies are the target of the New Men army of the Erok Regent Mordecai. 

Seems the former Erok king, King Malthusius had hated the Gypsies since their king Balthazar had never revealed the location of their Pool of Genesing, a pool of healing, to him.  Mordecai, the physically-deformed power behind the king, encouraged the king to persecute the Gypsies, sadly leading to their massacre, in the hopes of learning the location of this fabled pool.  With the current king Finnius still too young to rule, Regent Mordecai continues with this reign of terror, extending it to kidnapping Gypsy children for their blood, rumoured to be rich in health and vitality, to alleviate his physical distress.

When Azriel is seriously injured in the attack by the New Men, he leads her to the Gypsy camp, where he can be treated.  Azriel had been bringing Persephone there as she, and another girl Rachel, are the exact likeness of a girl prophecized to bring a Gypsy King to power.  When another part of the prophecy suggests a link to a Gypsy child hidden in the Erok capital of Parthania, Persephone, Rachel, Azriel and two other Gypsies head there to rescue him. Through a series of circumstances (fortunate or not), Persephone becomes a guest at the castle and the amorous target of both the Regent Mordecai and King Finnius, while Azriel must find the means to fulfill their mission and rescue her.  And, regardless of Persephone's original intent to strike out on her own, Azriel believes and hopes for more.
"A path stretches out before us, Persephone, and we will walk it together, whether you like it or not." (pg. 198)
Their stories are rich with dungeons, executions, opulence, ruthless lords, rumours, evil, charity, sparring of words, yearning and surprising revelations.  But there are no disappointments for the reader.  Maureen Fergus has created a complex (but never confusing) network of storylines that ensures a bounty of characters, both sympathetic and not, and conflict that could lead to love or death.  Her writing style is neither verbose nor vague, and her wit is embedded throughout.
"And the next time you happen upon a person of unknown providence, I encourage you to think before you strike, lest misjudgment on your part see you a head shorter before you're a day older." (pg. 291)
Be assured that, though the book may seem a lofty read at 434 pages, every twist and detail is significant in creating the resplendent read that is The Gypsy King.

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Look for my review of A Fool's Errand, the sequel to The Gypsy King, in my next post.  But, read The Gypsy King first if you haven't already.  You won't be disappointed.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

sounds engrossing, Helen.

monica k.

Helen K said...

It is, Monica. Great fantasy adventure.