It is impossible to believe that this is Robert Sells first published novel. Really. The 'about the author' in the back of the book clearly states "Return of the White Deer is his first public offering". It may be his first but I fervently hope it is not his last! With storytelling skills like his, Robert Sells could soon find himself among such nobility of legend and lore as Marion Zimmer Bradley, Diana Gabaldon and Roger Lancelyn Green (The Adventures of Robin Hood). Oh, I should say - I loved this book!Pen of Mercia is determined not to be like his father, quietly submitting to the outrages of the King's tax collectors. With stubborn determination, he learns how to wield a sword so he can defend himself and others.His world is turned upside down when his father, with only his bare hands subdues an armed soldier. Secrets seem to surround the lad. His best friend, Liana is remarkably proficient with the bow and arrow. How did she learn these skills and, more importantly, why? The greatest secret of all is Pen's clandestine meeting with the white deer, a legendary creature who long ago chose the kings of Mercia.Aided by his father and the beautiful Liana, Pen finds himself embroiled in a rebellion which might make him king ... if he can live long enough.
Return of the White Deer has definite similarities to Arthurian legend - a young boy unaware of his fate as he grows up suddenly discovers he is the chosen King but he has to fight for it. But it deviates in ways that give the story it's own character: nuns with the skills of war and healing for instance. There is a bit of Robin Hood thrown in - green men who live in the forest - but they hardly rob from the rich to give to the poor. Robert Sells has managed to give us a book that is familiar enough to be comfortable and different enough to be interesting and exciting. It is 'an offering' that is sure to excite fans of fantasy and legend alike.
Character Development 5
A Taste from Page 185:
At that same moment, just outside the city gate, a hundred or so snorting horses carrying hard-looking riders milled about. These men wore no uniforms and were of various sizes and shapes, some with long, unruly hair, some with none. Some were pale like moonlight, some dark as a moonless night. All had one thing in common though: their eyes ... flat and expressionless, but ever watching. These were the infamous huntsmen. They collectively turned their attention to a young captain who was obviously nervous about being so close to [the] group. King Cearl yelled into the face of the man: "What do you mean you couldn't find the path? How can you not track so many horses?The captain, his face mottled from dirt and sweat from riding all night explained: "We could track the path, sire, but there was more than one, and many, many hoof prints along each." Then he explained how each path led to a different location, a different possible route for the escaped band. "I split up my men and they followed each as far as they could, but no riders were seen. They moved fast, sire."