Author: Anna Elliot
Publisher: Touchstone, division of Simon & Schuster, May 2009
Genre: Historial fiction
Trade paperback, 426 pages
Book One in the Twilight of Avalon Trilogy
She is a healer, a storyteller, a warrior, and a queen without a throne. In the shadow of King Arthur's Britain, one woman knows the truth that could save a kingdom from the hands of a tyrant...
Ancient grudges, old wounds, and the quest for power rule in the newly widowed Queen Isolde's court. Hardly a generation after the downfall of Camelot, Isolde grieves for her slain husband, King Constantine, a man she secretly knows to have been murdered by the scheming Lord Marche -- the man who has just assumed his title as High King. Though her skills as a healer are renowned throughout the kingdom, in the wake of Con's death, accusations of witchcraft and sorcery threaten her freedom and her ability to bring Marche to justice. Burdened by their suspicion and her own grief, Isolde must conquer the court's distrust and superstition to protect her throne and the future of Britain.
One of her few allies is Trystan, a prisoner with a lonely and troubled past. Neither Saxon nor Briton, he is unmoved by the political scheming, rumors, and accusations swirling around the fair queen. Together they escape, and as their companionship turns from friendship to love, they must find a way to prove what they know to be true -- that Marche's deceptions threaten not only their lives but the sovereignty of the British kingdom.
In Twilight of Avalon, Anna Elliott returns to the roots of the legend of Trystan and Isolde to shape a very different story -- one based in the earliest written versions of the Arthurian tales -- a captivating epic brimming with historic authenticity, sweeping romance, and the powerful magic of legend.
"All about them, the dusk was drawing in. Twilight, the time of
changing, when the selkies swam in from the ocean and shed their sealskins to become the fairest of men." pg. 240
Take most of what you know about King Arthur and Camelot and forget about it. This is a grim and gritty story about the struggle for power during one of Britain's most turbulent times. Change is a constant theme in this story. It takes place in 6th centuray Britain, a time of great change. There is the continual threat of Saxon invasion, accompanied by the usual burning and pillaging of villages. The ruling class is in upheavel, due in no small part to what happens between Arthur, Gwynefar, and Modred. Isolde, the last of this ruling family, is not looked upon very kindly, even though she is married to the current High King, Constantine.
Isolde must learn to deal with her family's legacy to Britain. In doing so, Isolde eventually becomes as strong and independent as she can be. It's the 6th century, women can only do so much because they don't have any rights. Bear in mind that strong women tend to be labeled as witches also, whether there is truth to it or not. Isolde fights back against persecution and injustice, not only for herself but for Britain as well. Isolde becomes a leader, reminding the other feudal kings of their responsibility to the land and their people. In doing so, Isolde gradually wins some people to her cause.
With respect to the tragic love story between Isolde and Trystan, there are hints of it towards the end of the story. Maybe by book two or three this may be explored. Trystan also has some issues of his own to sort through, and this will probably be further delineated in the future as well. Right now there is too much upheavel occurring for a romance to develop, although there may have been some feelings between these in the past. It's at lease hinted at.
Elliott's writing brings all of her characters to life, both the principal and supporting cast. You despise the ones you should, and empathize with the ones who need the most love and understanding. There are a few scenes which were emotional for me, but remember these were brutal times. Elliott never forgets that and describes it as such.
Overall this was a very enjoyable book. This is book one of a planned trilogy, therefore most of this story is laying the groundwork for Books two and three. Regardless, the story moved quickly and was quite interesting. This is not a romance story, at least not yet. This is an epic and tragic retelling of turbulent times in Britain's long history, with an extremely strong and accomplished young woman at it's center. According to Elliott this story is a blend of legend and truth, and she is quite right. Isolde is certainly legendary in her own right.
"The stars will shine tomorrow, whatever happens to me here." pg. 15
My Rating: 95/100 I throughly enjoyed this darker re-telling of these legendary characters.
Challenges Met: Library Challenge 2009