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Friday, November 12, 2010

Review: Dark Moon of Avalon by Anna Elliott

Dark Moon of Avalon by Anna Elliott
Publisher: Touchstone, a division of Simon and Schuster
Genre: Historical fantasy fiction
Trade paperback 419 pages
Book Source: the author
My Rating:  85/100

From Goodreads:

She is a healer, a storyteller, and a warrior. She has fought to preserve Britain’s throne. Now she faces her greatest challenge in turning bitter enemies into allies, saving the life of the man she loves . . . and mending her own wounded heart.

The young former High Queen, Isolde, and her friend and protector, Trystan, are reunited in a new and dangerous quest to keep the usurper, Lord Marche, and his Saxon allies from the throne of Britain. Using Isolde’s cunning wit and talent for healing and Trystan’s strength and bravery, they must act as diplomats, persuading the rulers of the smaller kingdoms, from Ireland to Cornwall, that their allegiance to the High King is needed to keep Britain from a despot’s hands.

Their admissions of love hang in the air, but neither wants to put the other at risk by openly declaring a deeper alliance. When their situation is at its most desperate, Trystan and Isolde must finally confront their true feelings toward each other, in time for a battle that will test the strength of their will and their love.

Steeped in the magic and lore of Arthurian legend, Elliott paints a moving portrait of a timeless romance, fraught with danger, yet with the power to inspire heroism and transcend even the darkest age.

My Thoughts:

This is the second book in Elliott's trilogy about Trystan and Isolde, which takes place in the days after King Arthur's demise.  This book picks up where the first left off, however, those who haven't read the first one, Twilight of Avalon, will not be lost.  Elliott also provides a list of characters and their relationships in the foreword pages, which can be quite helpful. 

In this piece of the story, the fate of Britain is at a turning point.  With no universally accepted High King, several high rankning lords, notably Lord Marche have banded together against one another.  Throw in bands of the marauding warriors and thieves into the mix, and anyone was left alive is a mystery.  This is a tumultuous time in Britain and in humanity in general, yet there is one shred of hope that Isolde and her people can cling to.  If Isolde as the previous High Queen and descendant of Modred and Arthur, can convince King Cerdic to join her side, then they may stand a chance against Marche and his men.

Isolde must travel across dangerous lands to speak with Cerdic, so she grudgingly asks Trystan to escort her there.  Although Trystan would not trust her safety to anyone else, he also does not want to be in close proximity to her.  It would stir up too many feelings he can't deal with.  Unfortunately, a close friend of Trystan's, Hereric, is injured and requires Isolde's healing skills.  Therefore Trystan strikes a bargain with Isolde: he will see her to Cerdic safely, provided she takes care of Hereric.  Neither one is thrilled with this arrangement, however Trystan is the only person Isolde can trust.

It is during this journey that things fell apart for me.  Trystan and Isolde are thinking and deciding about their feelings for one another, yet hardly speaking to one another about the situation, except to say "Here have some bread."  I understand this section is a journey not so much in the physical sense, but also in the mental sense, in that each one comes to terms with both themselves and their feelings for one another.  In addition, both Trystan and Isolde come into this "relationship" with a lot of baggage.  Trystan has a terrible family history and past, as well as Isolde.  Actually both have been physically and emotionally abused over the years, so the fact that these two are even mentally well balanced is a miracle.  It actually speaks to their character, that they can move on from the past to deal with the present and future.  As you can see there are heavy ideas being dealt with here, not to mention the fate of Britain.

I think it was all of this thinking and deep, dark, emotional concepts that derailed this book for me.  I read for escape and when I was reading this I needed some escape.  Having said that, I will still read Book 3 Sunrise of Avalon, because I want to know what happens.  What happens to Trystan, Isolde, and Britain?  How do they make sense of everything and survive these brutal times?  Elliott's writing is beautiful and the concepts she deals with strike a chord for me, even though I didn't like them.  I felt Trystan and Isolde's pain, but unfortunately I wasn't in the mood at the time.  A reader's mental state influences how receptive they are to the book they are currently reading.  Therefore, some time in the future I will try to re-read this book, and see if I feel differently, hence the middle B rating.   Plus the last line of the book throws the door open wide to how this story will end.

For more information about the author please visit her website:

Thank you to Anna for sending me a copy of her book.  I'm sorry I didn't have a better reaction to it, but I still enjoy your writing.

2010 Challenges Met: 100+,  Reading Romance

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