From Amazon: ”Raised in the tranquil beauty of the Summer Country, Princess Guenevere has led a charmed and contented life -- until the sudden, violent death of her mother, Queen Maire, leaves the Summer Country teetering on the brink of anarchy. Only the miraculous arrival of Arthur, heir to the Pendragon dynasty, allows Guenevere to claim her mother's throne. Smitten by the bold, sensuous princess, Arthur offers to marry her and unite their territories, allowing her to continue to reign in her own right. Their love match creates the largest and most powerful kingdom in the Isles. Yet even the glories of Camelot are not safe from the shadows of evil and revenge. Arthur is reunited with his long-lost half-sisters, Morgause and Morgan, princesses torn from their mother and their ancestral right by Arthur's father, the brutal and unscrupulous King Uther. Both daughters will avenge their suffering, but it is Morgan who strikes the deadliest blows, using her enchantments to destroy all Guenevere holds dear and to force Arthur to betray his Queen. In the chaos that follows, Arthur dispatches a new knight to Guenevere, the young French prince Lancelot, never knowing that Lancelot's passion for the Queen, and hers for him, may be the love that spells ruin for Camelot.”
This was certainly a different take on the King Arthur legend and I really wanted to like it. As the book opens we meet a young Guenevere and her mother Queen Maire. Maire is the current ruler in a long line of women rulers (the country follows the mother right-the throne is passed down from mother to daughter). The Queens of the Summer Country are some very liberal ladies. They practice the pagan religion and their Champions are their lovers which they can change when they see fit. When Maire meets a tragic end Guenevere’s scheming Uncle Malgaunt tries to force her to take him as her Champion so he can overthrow the mother-right and rule the Summer Country himself. Her father surprisingly agrees as he sees England going to the Christians and feels maybe it is time for a man to rule the Summer Country. Suddenly, Arthur, the son of Uther and heir to the Pendragon legacy shows up and rescues her from Malgaunt. He falls in love with her and they decide to marry to unite the two kingdoms. This does not sit well with Merlin, Arthur’s advisor in everything, who has seen that Guenevere will betray Arthur with one of his own Knights and bring the land to ruin. Meanwhile it seems like a happy reunion between Arthur and his mother Igraine and two sisters Morgause and Morgan. Unfortunately it turns out to be just the beginning of much turmoil as the two sisters are bent on revenge. And eventually as Merlin predicted, in waltzes Lancelot to sweep Guenevere off her feet and put into motion the aforementioned liaison that will ruin Camelot.
First, this story is entirely sympathetic to Guenevere and the author sets the other main players in the story up in a way which forces you to feel sorry for Guenevere because the rest of them are so unlikeable. Here Merlin is a meddling, manipulative, mad man who is constantly trying to bend Arthur to his will. Arthur is a noble King, and a warrior but here he is so willing to be everyone’s pawn (Merlin, Guenevere, Morgause, Morgan) that it is really quite maddening. Guenevere who is supposed to be the strong character is still really naïve. Her uncle (yeah the one who tried to force her to marry him in the beginning) well since he has behaved himself these last couple of years she decides to forgive him and what happens? He kidnaps her and tries to force her to be with him again! Also in this interpretation Guenevere does not succumb to the charms of Lancelot until after Arthur decides Guenevere is not coming home (she goes temporarily loony after her son with Arthur is murdered) and decides to have relations with Morgan, his own sister. The redeeming characters in this whole book were Morgan who the author does a good job of portraying as innocent while in reality she is the embodiment of evil, and Lancelot who is noble and good. Also other elements to the story were there-the Knights of the Round Table, building Camelot to be a great Kingdom, the retaliatory attack from Lot of the Orkneys who held the kingdom before Arthur showed up and took it back. However¸ all of this took a back seat to all the other drama that was going on and the ideas never really felt fully developed. I am going to try the rest of the trilogy just to see where it goes but I was a little disappointed in this telling. I did enjoy her book I, Elizabeth immensely when I read it earlier this year which is why I am willing to give the rest of the books a chance.
This book is from my own personal library