Cover image for Guardian of the balance
Guardian of the balance
Radford, Irene.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : DAW Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
xi, 529 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Science Fiction/Fantasy
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This tour de force series begins in the time of Merlin and Arthur, when the balance of power is shifting between the old gods and their magic, and that of the new Christian faith. Merlin, gifted with true prophecy and pledged to the ancient Druidic gods, is sworn to preserve the old values and to protect the Earth and its people. Lured by the spell of the earth goddess, he forsakes his vow of celibacy for one Beltane festival, and the result is his daughter Wren, first in the line of his descendants, all of whom will be sworn to preserve the natural balance of the world. And although Wren is gifted in the ancient magics, and her rightful place should have been in Avalon, she is instead thrust into the heart of the political and religious struggles of a society on the brink of chaos, forced to confront an overwhelming evil which may well destroy Merlin, Arthur, and her entire civilization.

Author Notes

Irene Radford, author of the Dragon Nimbus ( The Glass Dragon, The Perfect Princess, The Loneliest Magician, The Wizard's Treasure) and the Dragon Nimbus History (The Dragon's Touchstone, The Last Battlemage, The Renegade Dragon ) series, often appears at conventions in the Oregon-California area. She is the author of the Stargods and Merlin's Descendants series as well, and is also one of the founder of the Book View Cafe. She can be contacted via her website,

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The Matter of Britain, as the Arthurian legends used to be called, seems to offer unlimited inspiration to storytellers, especially since Marion Zimmer Bradley opened a whole new set of options with her woman-centered Mists of Avalon. In that tradition, Radford spins a compelling, fast-paced story centered on Wren, daughter of Myrrdin Emrys--"The Merlin." She is conceived on Beltane night in the sexiest opening scene of any recent Arthurian novel and brought up to be her sire's magical heir. Wren loves Arthur, who, alas, is smitten by the half-fairy Guinevere, who in turn . . . , but everyone knows the rest, except for the part about Wren's children by Arthur and the couple's enduring affection. Lots of magic, lots of sex, lots of pagan ritual, and one very delightful main character make the book likely to find an enthusiastic audience. It is intended to be the first in a series, so the admirers it wins can expect more. --Patricia Monaghan

Publisher's Weekly Review

The protagonist of this first novel in a fantasy series of the tales of King Arthur is Arylwren, nicknamed Wren, daughter of Myrddin Emrys, The Merlin, and Deirdre, high priestess of the Druids. Raised among her father's wards, Wren falls in love with one such ward, Curryl, who, to no reader's surprise, turns out to be the eventual Arthur, Ard Rhi (High King) of Britain. Meanwhile, to protect her from political and religious intrigues, her father forces Wren into marriage with the abusive Carradoc, already involved in an incestuous affair with his demon-ridden, promiscuous, magic-working daughter, Nimue. Arylwren has a long and difficult journey through life, rescuing her father from Morgaine (in the novel as in legend, a sorceress) and her retainers from her husband, and eventually dying while bearing Arthur's child. This is not an impressive addition to the canon of Arthuriana, despite obvious folkloric expertise and several good passages (the two rescues head the list). Wren is more a collection of virtues than a believable human being. The author seems torn between scholarship about the Celts and modern neopagan images of them. And the sexual politics are piled on with an overly lavish hand. Much of the legend is here, including the extraction of Excalibur from the stone and the love of Lancelot and a Guinevere so pathetic one wonders what the man saw in her. Unfortunately, all the elements are so jumbled together that much of the spirit of the classic legend gets buried. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

As the daughter of Merlin and the goddess whom he serves, Wren grows up in the shadow of the boy who will one day inherit the title of Pendragon. Despite a loveless marriage and the enmity of her husband's family, Wren pursues a destiny spun for her by the goddess of the land. With this first in a series of novels focusing on the mythical bloodline of Merlin, Radford embarks on an ambitious project that should have certain appeal for fans of Arthurian legend and goddess-centered magic. A good choice for most libraries. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.