Mistress of Legend: Guinevere’s Tale Book 3


The legend of Guinevere gets a new makeover in this fanciful rendition. The story opens with Guinevere escaping Camelot with Lancelot. She is severely burned from head to toe on one side of her body, plucked from burning at the stake—supposedly on Arthur’s order. Shivering with fever from wounds that “stung with the fury of a whole nest of hornets,” she finds herself unable to continue on the journey. The King’s men catch up to the ill-fated lovers, and Guinevere consents to return to Camelot if they agree to let Lancelot go free. Upon her return, Guinevere discovers a kingdom divided. Mordred, Arthur’s son from another woman, is acting king. Arthur is losing favor with his own people. It is up to Guinevere to take control of the throne and reunite the kingdom.

This retelling of Arthurian legend gets high marks for imagination and originality. The problems, however, compound quickly. Reading more like fan-fiction than an original novel, the author borrows characters and situations from a well-known legend and, well, bends them every which way. The horrific burns that kept Guinevere from escaping appear and disappear at will—they are not mentioned for several chapters, reappearing only as scars. Guinevere is bold, brassy, and bossy. Arthur is degraded from a powerful, epic king to a sniveling weakling: “…He fell to his knees before me . . . appearing more like a penitent at the feet of a priest than a High King addressing his former wife.” Fan-fiction lovers, however, will find this well-written, if not traditional, retelling of legend entertaining and full of surprises.

FS Brown