‘Next Saturday. A tragic accident on the hunting field. We saw no other way, old friend.’
‘What Luther, Calvin, De Solero, Mountjoy, Fabian and all their legions failed to achieve, this whelp of a boy with his puny pipe and his ridiculous White Bird has been threatening to accomplish single-handed!’
The second book in Richard Cowper’s The White Bird of Kinship, A Dream of Kinship (ADOK), is much unlike the first, though tied in with both the characters and history that occurred in the first book. It’s less prophetic. The first book introduced us to the Boy Piper, the wizard who guided him, the Falcon who betrayed his cause.
There isn’t a link between two centuries in ADOK, unlike vol.1. You’d be forgiven for believing that things are just a little messy in The White Bird of Kinship. We start with the curiously named ‘Magpie’, who is a man with an aura of danger and powerful masculinity about him following a vision, ‘huesh’, to prevent the death of his old friend, Jane.
- Then, we’re cutting the action to Cardinal Constant of the Secular Arm in York (non-kinsfolk) who wants an end to the threat represented by the heretical kinsfolk and has some schemes in mind that are reminiscent of Game of Thrones-style treachery. The Secular Arm had as good as taken over Britain after the Drowning event. We’re in the future, in the 3000s.
- Then, we’re back to the Magpie; only he’s partnered with Jane’s friend Allison now (who he almost strangled earlier in the story) and they’re raising Jane’s son who resembles the Boy Piper of legend.
- Then, we’re on Lord Marshal Richard’s conflicts of conscience and loyalty, either to the kingdoms’ kinsfolk or Cardinal Constant in York. The story is at tipping point here, and I had to read what happened.
- The story moves on further to when Tom is grown up, and he’s an underachiever or aloof messiah figure infatuated with the alluring, feminine, and proud Lady Alice, who we know is a noble and is there to test Tom’s love or destiny.
As you can see, events are dizzying, and though the characters are all connected and related the situations aren’t.
To be frank, the characters were fascinating. If it’s not the Magpie’s ferocious strength, it’s Richard’s loyalty, Tom’s infatuation with Alice, Cardinal Constant’s grimness, cyclopean Brynlas, and more. I felt I was infatuated with Alice and that my mother loved pottery and that there were real threats against the kinship and success of the kingdoms. The author really put me in his shoes. Things moved so fast I was fascinated by the change in circumstances. The scene that stuck with me, for its atmospheric detail, has to be in the theatre. You have to read it!
ADOK was one of those rare examples where the second book is better than the first. I really felt surprised and absorbed by the worlds, politics, and characters. If you’re interested in British or medieval fantasy, don’t hesitate before giving this series a read. You don’t even have to read the first book. That’s how good it was. I’d definitely like to read more of Richard Cowper’s work.