Guinevere: The Legend in Autumn

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Persia Woolley Guinevere Trilogy 3. The Legend in AutumnGuinevere: The Legend in Autumn by Persia Woolley

Guinevere: The Legend in Autumn is a good book, even though it perpetuates the flaws seen in Persia Woolley’s previous Guinevere Trilogy novels, Child of the Northern Spring and Queen of the Summer Stars. Woolley’s Guinevere still has a habit of distancing herself from the story, briskly rattling off the legendary happenings like an anchorwoman for the Camelot Nightly News; and Woolley’s desire to tell the Arthurian legend without the use of supernatural elements results in cumbersome and byzantine plot devices as the author attempts to explain magical events without the magic. But all of this aside, this is a compelling and enjoyable conclusion to the series.

In Guinevere: The Legend in Autumn, the dream of Camelot begins to fall apart. There are quarrels: Guinevere and Lancelot fight bitterly over Elaine of Carbonek, whom Lancelot accidentally slept with. Mordred, whose best friend is a Saxon captive, comes to believe the Saxons are not as bad as they’re reputed to be, and wants to include them in the Round Table, but Arthur, veteran of countless Saxon wars, holds his old prejudices dear, and refuses his son’s request. Then, into this tumultuous court comes the young bard Taliesin, singing of the Grail, and the Round Table warriors begin to scatter to the four winds in search of the mysterious object.

Woolley deftly describes the tale told by each returning knight. She does a great job of showing how the Grail means different things to different people, and what sort of meaning each man finds. (And woman, too, for Guinevere will find her own personal Grail by the end of the story.)

Also wonderfully done is the treatment of Guinevere’s punishment for adultery. The usual retelling shows Arthur standing by heartlessly as his Queen is sentenced to the stake, and Lancelot ruthlessly killing his friends to save her. Woolley has a more complicated but more believable theory about what really happened behind the scenes, one that rings true to the characters of the brave Queen, the idealistic King, and the deadly but good-hearted knight. I won’t give it away, but it’s good.

Guinevere: The Legend in Autumn, and the Guinevere Trilogy in general, ought to be remembered above all for its sensitive portrayal of the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot love triangle. Gwen and Lance truly have a love for the ages, but Gwen also shares a special bond with Arthur, which holds Camelot together more than they realize. Guinevere is the human touch that balances Arthur’s ideals.


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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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