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The Knight of the Red Beard: Cycle of Oak, Yew, Ash, and Rowan    by Andre Norton & Sasha Miller order for
Knight of the Red Beard
by Andre Norton
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, Paperback, e-Book

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*   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Knight of the Red Beard, the conclusion to the Cycle of Oak, Yew, Ash, and Rowan by Andre Norton and Sasha Miller, focuses on two children of Ashen NordornQueen and Gaurin NordornKing (who are now both aging and frail after defeating the Mother Ice Dragon).

Spoiled thirteen-year-old Elin inveigles herself into the graces of her grandmother Ysa. She learns from her how to stir up trouble, helping Ysa to manipulate people and events, though she's somewhat daunted by the ultimate cost of their actions.

Elin's younger brother, eleven-year-old Mikkel, stows away with his friend Tjorvi (warkat Talkin accompanies them) on GorGull and is captured by northern Wykenigs when they attack the ship. Their leader Holger is married to Gunnora the Golden, who has a mysterious past. Mikkel is taken to their steading where he works with other younkers under the protection of Wysen-wife Askepott.

The children's other grandmother, Wysen-wife Zazar, uses her magic to contact Askepott. They become allies, not only in working for Mikkel's return, but also in investigating the nature of a bracelet of dragon's teeth that has attracted Ysa's interest, and that Gunnora wants very badly.

In the meantime, Mikkel has been bespelled by Gunnora to age quickly and is now a bearded young man, Ridder Red Fox, who believes that Holger is his father and has forgotten his past life. He escapes the steading in the company of another captive, Petra, who turns out to be a Rock-Maiden princess. She leads him down into her world where (with her people's help) they make a drowned ship seaworthy again.

The Knight of the Red Beard is a rather awkward fantasy adventure, with a conclusion that leaves room for a new cycle to begin. Though the story can be followed on its own, I would only recommend it to those who have been following the entire Cycle of Oak, Yew, Ash, and Rowan.

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