Nov 12, 2010

Book Review: Child of the Northern Spring by Persia Woolley

Child of the Northern Spring by Persia Woolley
Sourcebooks REISSUE, November 1, 2010
Historical Fantasy
Review copy provided by Sourcebooks, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Three Stars

The Guinevere Trilogy by Persia Woolley:
  • Child of the Northern Spring (1987)
  • Queen of the Summer Stars (1991)
  • Guinevere: The Legend in Autumn (1993)

Among the first to look at the story of Camelot through Guinevere’s eyes, Woolley sets the traditional tale in the time of its origin, after Britain has shattered into warring fiefdoms. Hampered by neither fantasy nor medieval romance, this young Guinevere is a feisty Celtic tomboy who sees no reason why she must learn to speak Latin, wear dresses, and go south to marry that king. But legends being what they are, the story of Arthur’s rise to power soon intrigues her, and when they finally meet, Guinevere and Arthur form a partnership that has lasted for 1500 years.

This is Arthurian epic at its best—filled with romance, adventure, authentic Dark Ages detail, and wonderfully human people.

Arthurian legends have held the aura of mystique for quite a few years, but the recent releases of Anna Elliott's Avalon series have helped me to quench the thirst for more stories of the period. There are several popular authors of the Arthurian genre such as Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Helen Hollick's Kingmaking series, and we also have the Guenevere novels by Rosalind Miles that I have wanted to read for awhile. Instead the opportunity came to review this reissue of another Guinevere/Guenevere trilogy, starting with Child of the Northern Spring by Persia Woolley.

The story starts with Woolley's Guinevere as a young woman about to be wedded to Arthur. On the excrutiatingly long journey to meet with her new husband, Guinevere's thoughts are full of reflection and the author recounts previous experiences in her life which makes the story jump back and forth in the timeline. This was not received well, as all I wanted was for Arthur and Guinevere to get married as promised upon the opening of the novel, and she doesn't become queen during this novel although the event was alluded to many times.

Irritatingly slow and dry was Guinevere's early story, and I found it difficult to want to pick up the book many a times. This is definitely something that you have to be ready to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere along with the young Guinevere as she sees and hears it for the first time, but if you are waiting for the dramatics and mystical realms of the Arthurian legends you are setting yourself up for disappointment. I feel that the author does a fine job of weaving Arthurian nuances throughout the many different characters in the story, but I wanted more of Guinevere's character and not the entire realm as it occurred around her and before her time as Queen. The cast of characters seemed complete though, with Arthur, Merlin, Morgan Le Fey and Mordred as well as several kings, soldiers and family members.

If you are the type of reader that gets put off by jumps in time (like I am) this will be a thorn in your side. To be fair, I have read that the later installments in Woolley's trilogy were much better received than this first piece, and perhaps those installments as a whole achieve what I was looking for here. And the last half of book one was better than its first, but it was slow going getting there. Alaine at Queen of Happy Endings did thoroughly enjoy Child of the Northern Spring, you can read her review here and get a difference in our two opinions. I think you need to be willing to immerse yourself in the setting of Arthurian legend, just as Guinevere herself tries to unwind the tales and customs, in order to enjoy the story. I have heard great things about the other Guenevere trilogy by Rosalind Miles and I have those waiting for the gift of my time and for when I am brave enough to delve back into Arthurian fantasy. It could be that I have worn out the welcome for Arthurian tales and not all that intrigued by he and his family any longer. Coupled with that and the time jumps within this story, this just wasn't the right moment for me to be able to thoroughly enjoy this novel.

Visit Heather at The Maiden's Court to read a guest post from the author Persia Woolley where she discusses her vision of Guinevere, and where there is also a giveaway for the book which ends November 20th.