Born to Exile by Phyllis Eisenstein

Grafton, 1992, 219 p.

 Born to Exile cover

These are the adventures of Alaric the minstrel, a foundling discovered on a wooded hillside with a severed hand clutching his leg. Taken in by a childless couple desperate for someone to care for he later is befriended by a minstrel called Dall who recognises his unusual ability – liable to be described by the society they live in as witchcraft. Alaric has the power of self-teleportation – handy for extricating himself from dodgy situations but a dangerous attribute.

In his wanderings after Dall’s death he comes to a castle where the local princess takes a fancy to him. Their liaison uncovered he has to flee precipitately but cannot forget her. Eventually he meets a former midwife with a strange tale to tell. She has only one hand. Cut off when a child she had just delivered disappeared along with it and banned from her home kingdom for failing to take proper care of her charge. Through her he comes to his ancestral home and finds a family he didn’t know he had (all of whom have his ability – but it must be kept secret.)

Born to Exile is a pleasant enough read, Alaric is a reasonably engaging protagonist – with a conscience (though the sexual politics of his world are typical of fantasy novels of this vintage) – and the ending provides scope for a sequel.

Pedant’s corner:- One entry. One only. Remarkable. “He bent her back till they lay prone on the bed” (face down? I think not; supine on the bed perhaps.)

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