a review by Nalini Haynes
Maeb Langtofte is a young woman living in the time of King Edmond, father to the notorious brothers and future kings Richard and John. After the death of her father, Maeb had two choices: enter a nunnery or go into service in a noble household. Maeb’s connections enabled her to join the household of the Earl of Pengraic, serving the Lady Adelie. The Pengraic household flees a plague shortly after Maeb joins them, moving to the seat of Pengraic in Wessex, where the plague catches up. On the journey Maeb sees an imp from hell whilst also struggling to deal with court life. The reader is constantly on the lookout for the Devil’s Diadem, especially once it is clear the imps are seeking something. The attentive reader will probably be kept guessing, as I was, as to the location of the diadem.
The story is largely told as the reminsciences of Maeb from 30 years in the future, so the reader is aware that Maeb survives. Suspense is engendered in the dangers she faces without knowledge of the consequences. Maeb is the centre of her own story as well as a focal point of danger, seeing imps, experiencing the plague and accusations of theft of the Diadem.
The Devil’s Diadem combines genuine history with myth to create a story successfully combining elements of love, loss, politics and horror all in a fantasy setting. Douglass has written a number of enthralling trilogies with broader scope. While not as broad in scope, The Devil’s Diadem has the advantage of not leaving the reader in suspense whilst waiting for the next installment. (I’m currently part way through several trilogies, so I’m over the current trend of releasing stories in installments.)
Highly recommended for fans of fantasy and myth.
Previously published in Dark Matter issue 4, July 2011, blog post predated to reflect the original publication date.