Thursday, May 13, 2010

K is for...

Kingdom of Summer by Gillian Bradshaw (Response to Historical Tapestry's Alphabet Challenge)

Historical in the strictest sense? Not exactly. Elements of myth, the paranormal, and fantasy permeate this reimagining of the Arthurian legend. Yet, they make sense in the historical setting into which Bradshaw has placed them--a post-Roman Dark Ages in which a confusing world could well hold portals to others. The characters believe in the power of magic, and we can well imagine real-life residents of Britain in this time believing as well, so the element feels perhaps not so fantastic after all.

Following the first book in the trilogy, Hawk of May, Kingdom of Summer continues the story of Gwalchmai, one of Arthur's most valued horesemen and soldiers. The gem for me in this retelling was that, rather than told in an omnipresent voice or the voice of an already familiar character, Bradshaw introduces a narrator who fits seamlessly into the legend yet would never otherwise be mentioned: Gwalchmai's servant. This is why, of the three books, this one is my favorite. The voice of a farmer's son lends a realism to the muddy, gritty, harsh world that a historical Arthur and his men would have inhabited.

Additionally, though the other books in the trilogy play much more with fantasy, Kingdom of Summer follows a more temporal storyline, though magical elements still pop up from time to time, and are integral to the story. And Bradshaw's writing is delightful. Reading certain scenes I could truly see the scene in my mind, as though panning through the a film with vivid detail.

If you enjoy historicals with an element of fantasy, you'll enjoy these. Just don't be put off by the cheesy covers. They are so gosh-darn-awful that I'm not including a pic here. Mine are used hardcovers with beautiful, simplistic artwork. Here's the cover for the final book, In Winter's Shadow. I confess, this one was so sad--describing Arthur's downfall--that I only read it once, for propriety's sake to finish the series.


Kathleen Wall said...

This series sounds great. I loooove the Arthurian legend, and fantasy, but I hadn't heard of them before. I'm adding them to my list. Thanks!

Cat said...

I haven't heard of this series either but it sounds like one I would enjoy so I'll have to do some sleuthing.

Great review!

Lua said...

I've never read historicals with an element of fantasy but this series sounds like a good read! Besides, I have a soft spot for the cheesy covers :) Thanks for the great review!