Kirkus Reviews QR Code
IN WINTER'S SHADOW by Gillian Bradshaw



Pub Date: July 19th, 1982
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Completing the Arthurian trilogy--but this weepily enervating effort doesn't fulfill the mild promise of Hawk of May (1980) and Kingdom of Summer (1981). At Camlann, narrator Gwynhwyfar (Guinevere) is toiling to contain the lies spread by the scheming Medraut (Mordred), while Arthur irritably haggles with rebellious king Macsen. Gwynhwyfar's attempt to poison Medraut backfires when, apparently forewarned, he refuses the cup and cries treachery; quick-thinking Arthur drinks the poison himself (by pouring it down his sleeve) and banishes Medraut--but he no longer trusts Gwynhwyfar who, in an unguarded moment, allows war leader Bedwyr (here subsuming the Lancelot persona) to seduce her. Meanwhile, Medraut murders his drunk brother Agravain, seizes the Orcadian crown, and returns to Camlann. Soon, as rumors involving Arthur's murky parentage and Gwynhwyfar's adultery flare up, Medraut catches the lovers in fiagrante, and a furious Arthur banishes them both. But love-lorn Bedwyr waylays Gwynhwyfar and abducts her to his kinsman Macsen's fortress, where weakly he agrees to aid the rebellion. So, when Arthur's forces attack, Bedwyr guiltfly helps Gwynhwyfar to escape; reconciled with Arthur, she returns to Camlann--only to find that Medraut has declared himself emperor. And finally, after suffering attempted rape, a beating, and imprisonment at Medraut's hands, she escapes to raise an army that will join with Arthur for the final battle to oust Medraut. Nearly all the magical elements (including Merlin) have been eliminated: what remains is blandly straightforward (all the battles occur offstage), emotionally sloppy, and--despite the often-spirited scenes in which Gwynhwyfar confronts Medraut--undramatic. A disappointing, dawdling conclusion; only for those already committed to the trilogy.