ISOLDE by Rosalind Miles


Queen of the Western Isle
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Miles, author of a Guenevere trilogy (The Child of the Holy Grail, 2001, etc.), again gives a persuasive feminist tweak to an old tale.

Setting the oft-told story of Tristan and Isolde in the context of Goddess-worship and Mother-right, Miles counterpoints knightly derring-do with decisive women empowered by ancient rights and beliefs. As the story begins, Sir Marhaus, current lover of the widowed Irish queen, has determined to prove his valor by sailing to Cornwall to fight weak King Mark. The queen’s only daughter Isolde, a healer who believes in love and peace, fears the invasion’s consequences and resists her mother’s desire for her to marry. In Cornwall, Marhaus is killed in single combat by King Mark’s nephew Tristan, but not before wounding his slayer with a poisoned sword. Tristan becomes deathly ill, and the only antidote to the poison is in Ireland. Disguised as a wounded pilgrim, he’s taken to the royal palace in Dublin, where Isolde nurses him while the queen mourns Marhaus. Knight and princess are soon head over heels, but Tristan fears retribution for killing Marhaus; once healed he returns to Cornwall and learns that the King has decided to marry Isolde in order to produce an heir. Isolde knows it is her royal duty to marry, but on the voyage to Cornwall she and Tristan (now acting as the king‘s emissary) become lovers. The newlywed queen faces many enemies in Cornwall, including Mark’s jealous mistress and Christian priests opposed to the rule of the goddess. After surviving the ordeal of water (she has to stay submerged for the count of 70 times 7), Isolde returns to Ireland to tend her ailing mother and prepare to rule. Tristan has obligations of his own to fulfill, but their love remains ready for further tests.

Fans can take their seats for another exhilarating ride through Arthurian Britain.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-609-60960-2
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2002


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