An un-idealized Ivanhoe and The Talisman. If you like sir Walter Scott, you'll enjoy the first 4/5 of this book tremendously.
Alix is orphaned, and (because she is female and a child) needs the king's intervention to keep her ancestral home. She disguises herself as a boy for safety, and heads for the royal court. On the way she meets Enoch, also headed for France, to study law.
The old king dies, and Alix and Enoch are forced to accompany Richard on a crusade in order to get his help.
Through her eyes we see medieval Europe and Palestine. She knows the history and customs the reader doesn't, and weaves it into the narrative smoothly and effortlessly and very humoristically. We know Real Life in a way the na´ve narrator doesn't, which Kaufman uses to charming and hilarious effect.
The meeting and romance with Richard is wonderful, beautiful and tragic. Alix's happy hero-worship, Richard's Christian angst, and the reader's modern ideas of morality, form an amazingly textured and memorable love affair.
The UST between Alix and Enoch is clumsily handled. The unreliable narrator voice Kaufman uses is a great hindrance here, and she never makes the characters' feelings believeable.
The last "book" of the novel only fills 1/5 of the volume. It is hurried, superficial, farcical and cutting rather than gently satirical and humane like the first two "books". Obviously the author wanted to get the work over and done with, which is a real shame, as there are the germs of a very good story here: a meeting with an un-idealized Robin Hood, to complete the Walter Scott mirror, a brilliant plan for revenge over the evil duke, and a happy end that does not contradict what is known about the societal status and legal rights of women under the reign of Richard Coeur de Lion. Skip the ending if you can!
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