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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit - Mercedes Lackey

For Mercedes Lackey’s stab at the Arthurian legend, she was inspired by a passage that spoke of three queens named Gwenhwyfar (her sources are in the Afterword, which is interesting reading).    When you think about the various stories surrounding Arthur’s queen, the various kidnappings, runnings away, potential children, etc, it actually makes a certain amount of sense that there was more than one woman involved with Arthur.

This book is the story of the third Gwenhwyfar, the daughter of one of the border kings subject to Arthur.   She’s just a child when Arthur marries the first Gwenhwyfar.   Living on the border, her family follows the old religion, and it’s clear that Gwen has been blessed by the goddess Epona, and so she becomes a warrior.     Gwen has a younger sister who could be her twin (she’s such in her shadow that she’s called Little Gwen, and her true birth name has been forgotten).    Little Gwen is completely opposite to her sister, preferring the world of women, and she’s eventually fostered out to the king’s sister, Anna Morgause.     Anna is of course the mother of Medraut, the bastard son of the king.   

The first two thirds of the book have little to do with Arthur, and instead are the family story of this Gwenhwyfar, and how she becomes  a renowned warrior.     Lancelin is introduced in the middle third, but the action is still far from Celliwig (Camelot).     I really enjoyed this part of the story – Gwen’s family, and her life in a border kingdom, are interestingly drawn.

The third part of the story, in which we finally meet Arthur (when Gwen is made his third wife), was not as good.    It’s a very standard Guinevere story, but the rest of the book has been about building up this warrior woman, and having her sacrifice all of that (even though she very well knows that it’s her duty), really rang hollow to me.    Her character changed too much, too willingly.     I was a little disappointed in the ending, which is a shame, because I really enjoyed the rest of the book.    I don’t want to say it was awful, but I can’t say it was one of my favorites.


DesLily said...

awww bummer. I guess I didn't have the best feelings on this one and so never got around to reading it... me thinketh it shall go to the bottom of the pile! thanks for the review!!

Megan said...

Yeah, same here. I really wanted it to be awesome, and I think I knew it wouldn't be.

Cheryl @ Tales of the Marvelous said...

This sounds like a very interesting premise...but if it all builds up and then takes a totally different direction, what's the point? It's always disappointing when a potentially great book doesn't live up to itself! I've had mixed experience with Mercedes Lackey, so it's not entirely a shock...

Megan said...

I totally agree. When Lackey's good, she's good, so when she's bad (and when you pump out that many books a year, I suppose it's inevitable), it's disappointing.

lynnsbooks said...

Aw no, I hate it when the ending doesn't live up, makes it not really worthwhile.
Lynn :D