Sophie Masson

Bantam Books / 327 pages / 1st edition (1999)

ISBN: 073380179X

Here is an insight into the world of book reviews: More than 60 reviews stand between me and my review of The Knight by the Pool. Would I be able to remember it clearly enough to make sense of the next volume in the trilogy? That’s the kind of thinking that keeps me up at night.

Why did I worry? Sophie Masson is more than capable enough to handle the situation. Opening the cover was like picking up on an interrupted conversation with a dear friend. Masson has that kind of enveloping touch that draws the reader in without pause, to a welcoming response, even a homecoming.

And so is Marie de France, heroine of The Lay Lines Trilogy. In the first book, she was widowed and won the love of Richard the Lionhearted. All while fulfilling a promise made to her beloved, dying husband. That is the kind of woman who is not going to hesitate when she is set an even more impossible task.

In The Lady of the Flowers, Marie must travel to far away Wales to release her knight Llew from an enchantment that he may not survive.

Of course, this quest is going to be complicated by the “assistance” of a host of questionable characters — some are genuinely trying to help, others are there to keep her from succeeding. Springing from the Otherworld with magical powers or stepping wholly human into her path, each being must be dealt with in the time that is rapidly running out. No less than the fate of our world rests on Marie’s delicate shoulders.

Not everyone (everything?) wants Marie to free her loyal knight. The cast of characters is no less fantastic than in Masson’s The Knight by the Pool. With Masson’s deft touch, though, all manner of beings seem equally full and realistic. Villains, goddesses, historical figures — all appear plausible and possible. That only increases the tension when the iniquity of their plans are revealed — or trebles the relief when the purity behind their motives is glimpsed.

In such talented hands as Masson’s, even the reality of magic and sorcery seems unquestionable. Each action flows so naturally and smoothly from the last, there is no moment of skepticism or doubt, no break in the spell of fascination cast by the book itself. In fact, it is difficult to put The Lady of the Flowers aside long enough to tend to the banalities of real life.

Fascinating characters, mesmerizing magic, and a tantalizing plot — what more could readers want? Whether they know it or not, they want accuracy and detail, and few can compete with Masson in this arena. Her knowledge, the depth and breadth and height her research can reach, is stunning.

Is there any downside to this book? Only that readers must wait until May 2000 for The King of Greenwood, the last volume in this irresistible trilogy.

We can all bite our nails together. How’s that?