Queen of the Summer Stars: Best retelling of Guinevere & Lancelot

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Persia Woolley Guinevere Trilogy 1. Child of the Northern SpringQueen of the Summer Stars by Persia Woolley

I didn’t plan on reading Queen of the Summer Stars, since I was disappointed with the previous installment, Child of the Northern Spring. But one day I was in an Arthurian mood, saw the last two volumes at the library, and said “Hey, what the heck?” I was pleasantly surprised by books two and three; I’m glad I changed my mind and read them.

Queen of the Summer Stars starts slowly. Guinevere seems more like a fly-on-the-wall narrator than a character for the first half of the book. She constantly regales us with all of the doings in Camelot — every banquet, affair, and border skirmish. But she doesn’t talk much about what’s going on in her own head. The result of this is that, whenever she suddenly acts with strong emotion, it comes out of left field. For example, at one point she lets two strangers talk her into trading a treasured family heirloom for a fertility potion from a Saxon witch. The scene was shocking because, while we know Gwen is sad about her infertility, we never knew she was that desperate. The emotional buildup wasn’t there in the text, so her actions were unexpected.

However, Guinevere comes out of her shell when she begins to fall in love with Lancelot. They hadn’t always been close. When Lance first came to Camelot, he was standoffish and rude to her. She disliked him even though he was a dead ringer for her childhood sweetheart. But they developed a friendship over the years, and then one fateful night, Lancelot rescues a delirious Guinevere from the tyrannical Maelgwn. She thinks he spoke words of love during their night ride — but was it just the delirium talking? A dream? Or long-denied truth? Now, Guinevere and Lancelot struggle to figure out a way to acknowledge their love without betraying Arthur. This book presents perhaps the classiest, most dignified portrait of that romance of any retelling I have ever read, and for that I commend Persia Woolley highly.

Guinevere has the chance to run away with Lancelot and live happily ever after, but Arthur needs her, and so does her new adopted son, Mordred, who is Arthur’s son by the vulgar and vicious Morgause. Guinevere must make tough choices, and nothing will ever be the same again at Camelot.

So, although I didn’t expect to like this book, I was proven wrong. I recommend it, especially for the touching portrayal of the Guinevere-Lancelot romance. See also the third book, Guinevere: The Legend in Autumn.


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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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