Sword of Light: A new spin on Arthurian legend

Sword of Light by Katherine Roberts science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsSword of Light by Katherine Roberts science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsSword of Light by Katherine Roberts

Rhianna has lived her entire life on the idyllic island of Avalon, never knowing her parents or seeing anything of the world beyond the isle. But the truth comes out in Britain’s darkest hour, when the wizard Merlin arrives on Avalon’s shore with the body of King Arthur Pendragon, slain in battle by his nephew Mordred and missing his sword Excalibur.

Rhianna learns she is the secret daughter of Arthur and Guinevere, hidden from the world at birth and now rightful heir to Camelot’s throne. It’s a lot for a young girl to absorb, but when she realizes that hope for the future lies with her finding the Four Lights (the sword of light, the lance of truth, the crown of dreams and the holy grail) that could reunite the kingdom and restore her father to life, she can’t wait to leave home and fulfil her rightful destiny.

Naturally it’s easier said than done. She’s lived a sheltered life, and not everyone on the mainland is convinced by the appearance of a girl claiming to be Arthur’s heir. Saxon hordes run amok, and Merlin has gone missing. More than that, her cousin Mordred was not killed in battle, but is currently hunting down the four treasures for himself.

Joined by her Avalonian friend Elphin and the last remaining Knights of the Round Table, Rhianna begins her quest to find the treasures, rescue her mother, and restore her father to life.

There are plenty of books out there that explore the possibility of Arthur Pendragon having had a secret son or daughter (Susan Cooper‘s THE DARK IS RISING sequence springs to mind) and Katherine Roberts does well in melding the traditional elements of Arthurian legend with her own ideas about the next generation, as well as a sense of magic (dragons, enchantments, mermaids) and realism (injuries, cold winters, torture, death).

Pendragon Legacy (4 book series) Kindle EditionAs a long-time fan of Arthurian legend, it’s interesting to note some of the changes Roberts made from the traditional stories: in this tale Mordred survives the battle of Camlann and becomes Rhianna’s primary antagonist, Guinevere isn’t in a convent, Lancelot is still alive, and there are enough Knights of the Round Table left alive to mount a defence of Camelot.

Likewise, although there are hints of things such as Guinevere’s adultery with Lancelot, the incestuous angle between Arthur and Morgan is entirely erased, with Mordred as Rhianna’s cousin instead of her half-brother.

The structure of the four-part series is pretty clear: each book pertains to one of the magical treasures (or “Lights”) that Rhianna must find if she’s to restore peace to the land, the journey for which is a self-contained adventure with a few overarching elements. It’s a neat little premise, though Rhianna herself can be irritatingly stubborn and short-sighted. Granted, a character has to start off as immature if she’s to have any decent character development, but it wouldn’t hurt if she was a tad more gracious and intelligent to begin with.

As someone who has always read Arthur’s death as the end of an era, it’s a little disconcerting to read a story in which Camelot’s defenders rally so quickly (Excalibur is barely back in Nimue’s possession before Rhianna heads out to reclaim it again). The context of the wider mythology loses a little of its poignancy in this sense, but hey — it’s a children’s series. On the whole Sword of Light (2012) is a strong start to what promises to be a rewarding story.

Published in 2012. Introducing Rhianna Pendragon: unlikely princess and Camelot’s last hope. It is the darkest hour of the darkest Age. King Arthur is dead, killed by his wicked nephew, Mordred. Saxon invaders rampage across the land and forces of evil are gathering. The path to the throne lies open to Arthur’s only remaining flesh and blood – Mordred. But there is one with a better claim than Mordred – Arthur’s secret child, Rhianna. Brought by Merlin to enchanted Avalon as a baby and raised there for protection, the king’s heir must take up a vital quest: to search for the four magical Lights with the power to restore Arthur’s soul to his body.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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One comment

  1. The Arthurian legend gets a modern and more youthful spin in “The Kid Who Would Be King ,” a surprisingly delightful film full of action, heart, a crazy-haired Patrick Stewart (as “old” Merlin) and a few genuinely good gags, and it really couldn’t have come at a better time.

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