Tarr, Judith 1955- (Caitlin Brennan)
Tarr, Judith 1955- (Caitlin Brennan)
Born January 30, 1955, in Augusta, ME; daughter of Earle A., Jr. (a waterworks manager and real estate salesman) and Regina (a teacher) Tarr. Education: Mount Holyoke College, A.B., 1976; Newnham College, Cambridge, B.A., 1978, M.A., 1983; Yale University, M.A., 1979, M.Phil., 1983, Ph.D., 1988.
Home—AZ. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer and educator. Edward Little High School, Auburn, ME, teacher of Latin, 1979-81; writer, 1985—. Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, visiting lecturer in liberal studies and visiting writer, 1989-92, visiting assistant professor of classics, 1990-92.
A Wind in Cairo, Bantam (New York, NY), 1989.
Ars Magica, Bantam (New York, NY), 1989.
Lord of the Two Lands, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Throne of Isis, Forge (New York, NY), 1994.
The Eagle's Daughter, Forge (New York, NY), 1995.
Pillar of Fire, Forge (New York, NY), 1995.
King and Goddess, Forge (New York, NY), 1996.
Queen of Swords, Forge (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Harry Turtledove) Household Gods, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Kingdom of the Grail, ROC (New York, NY), 2000.
Pride of Kings, ROC (New York, NY), 2001.
Queen of the Amazons, Tor Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Rite of Conquest, ROC (New York, NY), 2004.
King's Blood, ROC (New York, NY), 2005.
Bring Down the Sun, Tor Books (New York, NY), 2008.
Coauthor of Blood Feuds and Blood Vengeance, both 1993. Work represented in anthologies, including Moonsinger's Friends, edited by Susan Shwartz, 1985, and Sun in Glory and Other Tales of Valdemar, edited by Mercedes Lackey, 2003. Contributor to Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.
"THE HOUND AND THE FALCON" SERIES
The Isle of Glass, Bluejay Books (New York, NY), 1985.
The Golden Horn, Bluejay Books (New York, NY), 1985.
The Hounds of God, Bluejay Books (New York, NY), 1986.
The Hound and the Falcon (includes The Isle of Glass, The Golden Horn, and The Hounds of God), Orb (Granada Hills, CA), 1993.
"AVARYAN RISING" SERIES
The Hall of the Mountain King, Bluejay Books (New York, NY), 1986.
The Lady of Han-Gilen, Bluejay Books (New York, NY), 1986.
A Fall of Princes, Bluejay Books (New York, NY), 1987.
Arrows of the Sun, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1993.
Spear of Heaven, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Avaryan Rising (includes The Hall of the Mountain King, The Lady of Han-Gilen, and A Fall of Princes), Orb (Granada Hills, CA), 1997.
Tides of Darkness, Tor Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Avaryan Resplendent (includes Arrows of the Sun, Spear of Heaven, and Tides of Darkness), Tor Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Alamut, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1989.
The Dagger and the Cross: A Novel of the Crusades, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1991.
Lady of Horses, Forge (New York, NY), 2000.
White Mare's Daughter, Forge (New York, NY), 1998.
The Shepherd Kings, Forge (New York, NY), 1999.
Daughter of Lir, Forge (New York, NY), 2001.
"DEVIL'S BARGAIN" SERIES
Devil's Bargain, ROC (New York, NY), 2002.
House of War, ROC (New York, NY), 2003.
UNDER PSEUDONYM CAITLIN BRENNAN
Song of Unmaking, LUNA Books (New York, NY), 2005.
The Mountain's Call, LUNA Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Shattered Dance, LUNA Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Fantasy novelist Judith Tarr, according to a reviewer for the Washington Post Book World, "has plumbed the well of ancient lore for her novels." A trained historian, Tarr uses her academic background to add depth and realism to her works. All her novels to date use historical characters, settings, or prototypes: the volumes of "The Hound and the Falcon" series, for instance, take place in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries in Europe and the Middle East; the novel Lord of the Two Lands is set in Egypt during the conquests of Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C.; and Pillar of Fire tells an alternative version of the fate of the ancient pharaoh Akhenaten, credited with developing the earliest form of monotheism. Although her work is at heart fantastic rather than historical, a Locus magazine contributor noted that "Tarr grounds it as firmly in research as the soundest historical novel."
Tarr's fantasy series "The Hound and the Falcon," consisting of The Isle of Glass, The Golden Horn, and The Hounds of God, traces the adventures of Alfred, an immortal of unknown origins. Alfred was abandoned at birth, as many unwanted children were in ancient and medieval times, and was raised in a monastery as an oblate. Because of his ancestry, Alfred suffers from a conflict between "his spiritual needs as a monk, his magical ability, and his physical reality as a non-human," explained Phyllis J. Day in Fantasy Review. In The Isle of Glass Alfred is sent on an important mission to the Crusader king, Richard I of England. The Golden Horn finds him and his immortal lover Thea in the city of Constantinople, which is besieged by Crusaders, while The Hounds of God places Alfred as chancellor of the kingdom of Rhiyana, where the few surviving immortals are under attack by the Inquisition. Many critics reacted positively to Tarr's mix of history, romance, and fantasy: "Tarr provides loving detail to each characterization, subplot, image and interaction—her craft is exceptional," Day concluded. Other reviewers, however, expressed less enthusiasm. "The Golden Horn," noted Colin Greenwood in the New Statesman, "is a bit like The Sound of Music set in Byzantium, 1204, though with rather more carnage."
In the "Avaryan Rising" series, Tarr's historical erudition is less explicit. According to a Publishers Weekly reviewer, The Lady of Han-Gilen, the second volume in the series, is "less original than Tarr's ‘The Hound and the Falcon’ trilogy, but it's also livelier and more engaging." Elian, the title character in this work, recalls the ancient Greek legend of Atalanta: she is beautiful, intelligent, and determined not to marry until she finds someone she cannot best. Her chosen mate turns out to be a childhood friend named Mirain, who is a demigod. "Proving herself an able warrior as well as a royal hellion with prophetic gifts," Anne Raymer wrote in the Voice of Youth Advocates, "Elian wins more than the admiration of her child love." Later volumes in the series tell about the future of the kingdom Mirain and Elian establish. Spear of Heaven, focusing on one of the couple's descendants, "owes more to adventure novels such as [Rudyard Kipling's] Kim and—in particular—[James Hilton's] Lost Horizon," stated Faren Miller in Locus, who added that it reads like "an exotic hybrid of Lost Horizon and The Taming of the Shrew." Praising Tarr's "elegant" prose, a Publishers Weekly reviewer observed that the author "beautifully conveys splendid regal settings, realistic politics, convincing cultural details—and cultural clashes."
In her other novels, Tarr places actual historical characters in fantastic contexts. The title character of His Majesty's Elephant, for instance, is Abul Abbas, an elephant given by the Caliph of Baghdad, Haroun al-Rashid, to the Frankish emperor Charlemagne in the early ninth century. Tarr adds a subplot about a magical talisman that arrives with Abul Abbas. A sorcerer wishes to use it to cast a spell that will kill the king. Charlemagne's youngest daughter, Rowan, and a British slave named Kerrec confront the sorcerer. "Tarr has written a marvelous fantasy tale," asserted Renee Troselius in Book Report. "Rowan is a strong-willed character that readers will care about." The Eagle's Daughter, set in the tenth century, uncovers the world of a chaotic Roman Empire, which has been divided into eastern and western halves. It is a "fully realized novel," noted Booklist contributor Brad Hooper, who found that Tarr recreates successfully the complex politics of an ancient empire at the cusp of the modern world.
Three of Tarr's works—Lord of the Two Lands, Throne of Isis, and Pillar of Fire—are set in ancient Egypt, and tell, respectively, of the country's conquest by Alexander the Great, of the reign of Cleopatra and her romance with the Roman soldier Marc Antony, and of the career of the pharaoh Akhenaten and the prophet Moses. "If she hasn't yet proven herself a successor to the likes of Mary Renault and Bryher and Rosemary Sutcliff," a Washington Post Book World reviewer concluded, "Judith Tarr … [takes] a step in the right direction."
Egypt's infamous Queen Hatshepsut is the focus of King and Goddess. Tarr's novel, which is set in ancient Egypt, captures the spirit of Hatshepsut's life and the unusual events that marked her years as ruler of the kingdom. Booklist reviewer Whitney Scott called the novel "meticulously researched" and noted that Tarr's "artistry again brings [an ancient world] to life for twentieth-century readers." Reviews of Queen of Swords, which focuses on the female ruler Melisende, the Frankish queen of Jerusalem, were also positive.
Tarr chose the kingdom of Egypt again in The Shepherd Kings to create a world cast into despair by foreign invaders. The hopes of the Egyptians rest on a slave girl called Iry who resolves to rid her land of the barbarians and free Egypt. A Booklist contributor called the story a "dramatically imagined chapter in ancient Egyptian history."
In White Mare's Daughter, Tarr creates a world populated by peaceful, goddess-worshipping nomads who come in conflict with a tribe of warrior horsemen who deny freedom to their women. Library Journal reviewer Laurel Bliss stated that the book "showcases Tarr's ability to create fascinating, passionate characters and to bring their unique cultures to life." This world is also the setting for a later novel, Daughter of Lir. The city of Lir, which was founded by the goddess worshippers in the prequel, must combat invaders armed with chariots. Determined to build her own chariot army, Rhian, the chosen one of the White Mare, must ally forces with her brother, Prince Emry, to save her people. "Lir's matriarchal utopia will please feminist and romantics alike," maintained a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
Tarr joined forces with noted fantasy writer Harry Turtledove in Household Gods. The authors adapt the story of the Wizard of Oz to invite readers into the life of Nicole Gunter-Perrin, a frustrated single mom who wakes up one day in the body of a second-century Roman woman. Nicole quickly discovers that life in the ancient world was much more difficult than she imagined. Jackie Cassada, writing in Library Journal, noted that the story "emphasizes the human qualities that transcend the limitations of history."
"Tarr's ability to give equal weight to both history and myth provides her historical fantasies with both realism and wonder," commented Library Journal contributor Cassada about Kingdom of the Grail, Tarr's retelling of the Camelot legend. Pride of Kings, a historical fantasy set in the twelfth century, is based on the story of King Richard the Lionheart. When King Richard leaves for Palestine on a Crusade, he assigns his brother John to watch over his kingdom. John is tempted by the lust for power and attempts to claim his brother's kingdom as his own. The story is "gracefully and convincingly told," observed Cassada. A contributor to Publishers Weekly, commented: "The fantastic may be subsidiary to fact … but it lends an eerily beautiful, sometimes frightening undercurrent to this engrossing, thoroughly satisfying novel."
In Devil's Bargain, Tarr begins another tale of Richard the Lionheart, who is off fighting the Crusades, with his half-sister Sioned arriving on the scene after his conquests. In this tale, Sioned takes the side of the conquered Saladin's envoy Ahmad, a mage she hopes will teach her magic. Another magician, Sinan, has made a bargain with Richard's mother to make Richard successful in his battles. Writing in the Green Man Review online, Elizabeth Vail noted that the novel follows "more or less, the true history of the Crusades." In the book's sequel, House of War, Richard has conquered and become king of Jerusalem, but he must return home to prevent his brother Henry from seizing the throne of England. Another plot line involves Sioned, who has learned sorcery and is now doing battle with Sinan. In another review in Booklist, Scott called the book a "beautifully researched, masterfully written historical fantasy."
Tides of Darkness is part of Tarr's Avaryan chronicles and tells the story of Indaros Karelios, an aristocrat whose primary goal in life is to have a good time. Indaros has magical talents but does not want to be burdened with the responsibility using such talents would place on him. After getting into serious trouble, Indaros is sent to develop his abilities as part of his punishment. Worse, he soon finds himself battling monsters out to destroy his world. Harriet Klausner, writing on AllSciFi.com, called the novel "a tremendous epic fantasy that will send genre readers in search of the previous novels, all wonderful entries."
Tarr's Queen of the Amazons pairs Alexander the Great, the first conqueror of the entire known world, in a meeting with the beautiful Hippolyta, who is queen of the Amazons. "Tarr's fluid plotting and careful research will keep readers intrigued," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor. Scott wrote that "Tarr's gift for combining her own brand of magical fantasy with fully drawn, compelling characters acting within the framework of history bears fruit again." In Rite of Conquest, Tarr tells the story of William the Conquerer. In her version, William is the son of a human king and a goddess. Under the influence of the beautiful magician and French noblewoman Mathilda, William decides to tap into his own magical abilities and take over England, even though he is a bastard son with no right to the crown. Scott commented that the author "writes scrupulously researched historical fiction that blends myth, mystery, historical fact, and page-turning-good action." A Publishers Weekly contributor called the novel an "absorbing historical fantasy" and noted that it contains "breakneck pacing and compelling historical detail."
King's Blood, Tarr's next offering, is a sequel to Rite of Conquest. Following the death of William the Conqueror, his son Red William takes power. Red William decides that the time has come to do away with magic as a force in Britain. Magic was a large part of his father's reign, as he was credited for bringing this older force back to Britain and recreating the link between the people and the land so that the two lived in harmony. However, Red William's decision causes a decline across the nation, as land and people both fail to thrive. The Conqueror's younger son, Henry, joins forces with Edith—a Scottish princess and a Saxon, who has been imprisoned—in an attempt to recapture the magical power that once made Britain a force with which to be reckoned. Scott, in a 2005 review for Booklist, declared that "Tarr continues to blend meticulous historical research and character-driven adventure fantasy." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that "compelling characters and curious plot twists make this a page-turner." Cassada, reviewing the book for Library Journal, opined that Tarr's effort "should appeal to fans of historical fantasy." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews dubbed the book "a fast and entertaining read," and went on to conclude that it is "an enchanting portrait of a land in turmoil."
Tarr told CA: "As a writer of fantasy, I have found my academic training to be truly invaluable. Fantasy is more than an illogical escape, or a conglomeration of elements from Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual. Good fantasy requires a knowledge of history, a feeling for language—one's own and, preferably, a number of others (I have classical and medieval Latin, classical Greek, Old and Middle English, medieval and modern French, some German, and some Provencal)—and an affinity for plain old hard work. The training and techniques required to earn a Ph.D. adapt themselves very well indeed to the exigencies of creating and populating a world. If nothing else, I have learned where to look for what I need, what to look for, and what to do with it when I have it—not to mention the ability to produce work of consistent and, I can hope, high quality, on command and against a deadline.
"I write what I write, and not (by choice) scholarly monographs or historical novels, or, for that matter, contemporary fiction, because I like writing fantasy. The challenge of historical fantasy is to adhere as closely as possible to actual historical events, while incorporating elements of fantasy: magical beings and powers, imaginary kingdoms, and straightforward alternate history. In high fantasy, the challenge becomes at once simpler and more complex. The need for scrupulous historical research is less, but in its place comes the task of creating lands, people, languages, histories, cultures, and all the manifold aspects of a living world. Not only must I create them, I must create them as a whole, connected logically and plausibly, with characters drawn to the best of my ability. It is not easy. There are few shortcuts. The result is never as close to perfection as it might be, but the sheer, exhilarating fun of it is well worth the effort."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 1995, Brad Hooper, review of The Eagle's Daughter, p. 1310; June 1, 1995, Whitney Scott, review of Pillar of Fire, p. 1732; August, 1996, review of King and Goddess, p. 1891; January, 1997, review of Queen of Swords, p. 822; June 1, 1998, Whitney Scott, review of White Mare's Daughter, p. 1729; July, 1999, review of Household Gods, p. 1896, review of The Shepherd Kings, p. 1925; June 1, 2000, Diana Tixier Herald, review of Lady of Horses, p. 1862; August, 2000, Roland Green, review of Kingdom of the Grail, p. 2126; August, 2001, Whitney Scott, review of Pride of Kings, p. 2102; October 1, 2003, Whitney Scott, review of House of War, p. 308; March 1, 2004, Whitney Scott, review of Queen of the Amazons, p. 1147; September 15, 2004, Whitney Scott, review of Rite of Conquest, p. 215; October 15, 2005, Whitney Scott, review of King's Blood, p. 37.
Book Report, May-June, 1994, Renee Troselius, review of His Majesty's Elephant, pp. 46-47.
Bookwatch, December, 2004, review of Rite of Conquest.
Fantasy Review, January, 1986, Phyllis J. Day, review of the The Golden Horn, p. 26.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 1996, review of King and Goddess, p. 853; December 15, 1996, review of Queen of Swords, p. 1764; June 1, 1998, review of White Mare's Daughter, p. 775; May 1, 1999, review of The Shepherd Kings, p. 667; July 1, 1999, review of Household Gods, p. 1000; September 1, 2005, review of King's Blood, p. 948.
Kliatt, July, 1996, review of Throne of Isis, p. 56; September, 1997, review of Pillar of Fire, p. 54; November, 1997, review of The Eagle's Daughter, p. 38.
Library Journal, June 15, 1995, Cynthia Johnson, review of Pillar of Fire, p. 96; February 1, 1997, review of Queen of Swords, p. 108; June 1, 1998, review of White Mare's Daughter, p. 161; August, 1999, review of Household Gods, p. 147, review of The Shepherd Kings, p. 143; August, 2000, Jackie Cassada, review of Kingdom of the Grail, p. 167; June 15, 2001, Laurel Bliss, review of Daughter of Lir, p. 106; September 15, 2001, Jackie Cassada, review of Pride of Kings, p. 115; March 15, 2004, Jackie Cassada, review of Queen of the Amazons, p. 110; September 15, 2004, Jackie Cassada, review of Rite of Conquest, p. 52; October 15, 2005, Jackie Cassada, review of King's Blood, p. 51.
Locus, October, 1994, Faren Miller, review of Spear of Heaven, p. 17.
New Statesman, July 24, 1987, Colin Greenwood, review of the The Golden Horn, p. 23.
Publishers Weekly, March 20, 1995, review of The Eagle's Daughter, p. 44; May 22, 1995, review of Pillar of Fire, p. 50; July 8, 1996, review of King and Goddess, p. 74; January 6, 1997, review of Queen of Swords, p. 66; April 27, 1998, review of White Mare's Daughter, p. 45; May 31, 1999, review of The Shepherd Kings, p. 67; August 23, 1999, review of Household Gods, p. 54; September 4, 2000, review of Lady of Horses, p. 91; June 18, 2001, review of Daughter of Lir, p. 61; August 13, 2001, review of Pride of Kings, p. 291; February 23, 2004, review of Queen of the Amazons, p. 56; September 20, 2004, review of Rite of Conquest, p. 50; August 15, 2005, review of King's Blood, p. 38.
School Library Journal, February, 2000, Christine C. Menefee, review of Household Gods, p. 143.
Science Fiction Chronicle, August, 1999, review of Household Gods, p. 40.
Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 1987, Anne Raymer, review of The Lady of Han-Gilen, p. 181.
Washington Post Book World, May 22, 1995, Rosemary Sutcliff, review of Pillar of Fire, p. 50.
AllSciFi.com,http://www.allscifi.com/ (January 22, 2008), Harriet Klausner, reviews of Tides of Darkness, House of War, and Pride of Kings.
Bookloons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (January 22, 2008), Hilary Williamson, review of Queen of the Amazons.
Green Man Review,http://www.greenmanreview.com/book/ (January 22, 2008), Elizabeth Vail, review of Devil's Bargain, House of War, and Pride of Kings.
Judith Tarr's Brand-New Shiny Home Page,http://www.sff.net/people/judith-tarr (January 22, 2008).