Brennan, Caitlin (Judith Tarr)

About the author

Judith Tarr (b.1955), who also writes under the pseudonyms Caitlin Brennan and Kathleen Bryan, writes historical novels and fantasy as well as a genre new to me, historical fantasy. In this, historical events are blended with the fantastic, and so in Devil’s Bargain, Richard the Lionheart is leading the Crusades against Saladin, but his mother Eleanor has struck a bargain with a sorcerer in which Richard will survive, but at the cost of losing his soul. Richard’s illegitimate sister, Sioned, has to battle with the jinn and the forces of darkness to save his soul, an idea which is certainly intriguing.

Judith Tarr’s academic background has served her well in her writing. She was educated at Mount Holyoke College and Cambridge, where she studied for an MA in Classics. She said:

As a writer of fantasy, I have found my academic training to be truly invaluable. Fantasy is more than an illogical escape, or a conglomeration of elements from Tolkien, C S Lewis, and the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual. Good fantasy requires a knowledge of history, a feeling for language—one’s own and, preferably, a number of others (I have classical and medieval Latin, classical Greek, Old and Middle English, medieval and modern French, some German, and some Provençal)—and an affinity for plain old hard work. The training and techniques required to earn a PhD adapt themselves very well indeed to the exigencies of creating and populating a world. If nothing else, I have learned where to look for what I need, what to look for, and what to do with it when I have it—not to mention the ability to produce work of consistent and, I can hope, high quality, on command and against a deadline.

Judith Tarr breeds Lipizzaners at Dancing Horse Farm, and they have influenced her Mountain’s Call series, written as Caitlin Brennan, in which the gods take the form of dancing white horses.

Links and sources
Judith Tarr on Wikipedia
Judith Tarr’s blog
Macmillan on Judith Tarr
More on Judith Tarr at


Epona Series
Lady of Horses
White Mare’s Daughter
Daughter of Lir

Mountain’s Call

The Mountain’s Call
Song of Unmaking
Shattered Dance
House of the Star

Bibliography (horse books only)

A Wind in Cairo

Bantam USA, pb,1989
Bantam UK, 1990, pb

Reprinted by, 2009, with original text plus a new introduction and bonus short story Hasan is a spoiled emir’s son, who makes the mistake of offending the kingdom’s most powerful Magus. He turns Hasan into a stallion with human intelligence.

White Mare’s Daughter

Forge, New York, 1998, 494 pp
Forge Books, 2001

Set in prehistoric Europe, Sarama is the servant of the White Mare, incarnation of the Horse Goddess Epona. The goddess wants Sarama to find a land where men have never ruled. When Sarama finds this land, which has never known horses, war, or men as rulers, she realises she will have to teach them to resist the tribes advancing on them.

Lady of Horses

Forge, New York, 2000, 415 pp
Forge, New York, 2002, pb

Although written after White Mare’s Daughter, this book precedes it, and deals with with a time three generations before the first horse was ridden. A girl is the first to make the step, but the priests decree that only men should ride, and attribute her achievement to her brother. This displeases Epona.

Daughter of Lir

Tom Doherty Associates, New York, 2001, 415 pp
Forge Books, New York, 2003, pb

The nomadic tribes have now harnessed the horse to the war chariot. The king has lost his soul to a witch, and the tribe is about to embark on conquest.

The Mountain’s Call (as Caitlin Brennan)

Luna, New York,2004, 459 pp
Luna, New York, 2006, 536 pp

The gods, in the form of white horses, live in the mountains. Only boys have been called to ride the Stallions in The Dance, but then the girl Valeria hears the call. Disguised as a boy, Valeria battles through the tests to become a Rider, but at the end her secret is discovered and she loses everything she has won. Now the Aurelian Empire threatens, and Valeria’s fury might allow them a way in.

Song of Unmaking (as Caitlin Brennan)

Luna, New York, 2005, 488 pp

Valeria is trying to save the Aurelian Empire, but she has tried too hard, and a darkness has taken root in her. She turns to Kerrec, her mentor, but he has a darkness even worse than hers, and he is sent from the Mountain in a quest for healing. Valeria shadows him, and it is on these two that the fate of all they believe in rests.

Shattered Dance (as Caitlin Brennan)

Luna, New York, 2006, 442 pp

The Aurelian Empire is threatened again, and Valeria has to risk her life to save it.

House of the Star (as Caitlin Brennan)

Starscape, New York, 2010