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Book Reviews

November, 1996
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The Ancient Future -- the Dark Age
Traci Harding (HarperCollins)
Imagine if you will how our cultural heritage would be different if the fighting and meditation styles of Tae-kwon-do had been introduced at a high social level to 6th century Britain, or similarly, the concepts of female rights and independence.

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There were many elements involved in the story ranging through historic romance, action, fantasy, and science fictional time concepts, to mention only a few. This books explores several divergent concepts, such as time 'travel', reincarnation, destiny and fate, magic or science, all wrapped in a tale of a person misplaced in time.

The story itself made interesting reading and was almost compelling, particularly when approached with an open mind and a willing suspension of disbelief. The writing style, however, was inconsistent, which could be disturbing to readers who are distracted by technique. This weakness seemed very much to be the product of an author inexperienced in composing novels although probably proficient in other writing modes (the opening blurb indicated that she had been involved with film scripts).

A young woman who is very much the product of the modern age, fiercely independent and a black belt in martial arts, is by magic, or science, whisked back to 6th century Wales. She is met by a small band of men, the leader of whom she recognises from history, and challenges them to one-on-one unarmed combat in the hope of avoiding being attacked by the combined force who are starting to argue that she must be the embodiment of an evil spirit. Her superior fighting style earns her the admiration of the leader, the are of the rest of his group and dislike from her sparring partner for having been bested by a mer girl. Isn't it fortunate that her father had taught her the ancient language of the Britons?

The prince is obviously a forward thinker and begs to be taught how to fight as she does. From there, the inevitable romance develops despite her constant interference in the social status quo (inciting other females to think that they have rights, rescuing a girl from a loveless and abusive marriage, encouraging women to learn self defence, etc.).

She eventually is caught up in events which will affect history and cause ripples into her native time period. The full impact of which becomes evident when she goes 'home' for a short visit.

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Despite a 'happy-ever-after' ending which should preclude any sequels, there are some interesting an unexpected twists to the story line that make the book a fun read. Although not to be taken seriously as an alternative view to early history, the story concepts could spark some intriguing discussions among those who delve into 'what if's'.

The bibliography and references listed at the back are a good reading guide for anyone interesting in following through with many of the concepts introduced in the story.

The book is a pleasant diversion for historic fantasy readers and generally a light an easy, fun read for most people regardless of their preferred genre.

... Sue Hryckiewicz (Nov 96)

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Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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