KINGDOM OF SUMMER by Gillian Bradshaw


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Volume II in the Arthurian-legend trilogy begun with Hawk of May (1980)--in which Gwalchmai (Gawain) broke with his evil-sorceress mother Morgawse and his brother Merdraut (Mordred), joining up instead with his conquering uncle, King Arthur, and the cause of the ""Light"" at Camlann (Camelot). This second installment is narrated by young farmer's son Rhys, whose family offers refuge to a wounded Gwalchmai; the knight reluctantly tells them his story--he is searching for Elidan, the Saxon princess he loved and wronged (he killed her rebel brother)--and restless Rhys begs permission to become Gwalchmai's servant and aid the good Christian doings at Camlann. So the knight and his new squire return to Arthur's court (brief glimpses of the king and queen, et al.) but are soon dispatched on a diplomatic mission: they're to visit and cheek up on Maelgwn, king of Gwynedd, who may be cooking up some insurgent nastiness. And, indeed, not only is Maelgwn clearly hatching evil plots at Degannwy castle; his co-conspirators turn out to be. . . Gwalchmai's evil mom (who's sleeping with King M.) and brother Merdraut! The villains, in fact, try to win Rhys' help in a scheme against Gwalchmai (supposedly a ""cure"" for his fits of battle-madness), first with soft soap, then with rough stuff: Rhys gets the heavy black-magic third degree. . . but is rescued by servant-girl Eivlin (whom he converts from pagan to Christian). And these runaway sweethearts are taken in by a nun with a small bastard son; she's Elidan, of course, Gwalchmai's lost, unforgiving love! So, finally, after a Lightness vs. Darkness duel, the murder of Morgawse (by her other son, Agravain), and the revelation that Merdraut is really the incestuous offspring of Morgawse and Arthur, goodness triumphs. . . though Merdraut vows to have vengeance on them all in Volume III. Again, as in Hawk of May, Bradshaw's attempts at thematic heft (Light vs. Dark, pagan vs. Christian) are more Star Wars than Tolkien, let alone genuinely medieval. And the tales-within-the-tale sometimes slow the pace to a crawl. Still, compared to most Arthurian recyclings, this is painless and straightforward storytelling--a fair measure of action, moderately appealing heroes, and a plainly effective tone somewhere between old-fashioned fairy tale and new-fashioned irony.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1981
ISBN: 1402240724
Publisher: Simon & Schuster