Reviewed by Peter Fitzpatrick
"Our people belong to this land; the land is part of us. We don't keep it, we hold it in trust, because it lives, it takes care of us."
Do you want to read a new interpretation of the Arthurian cycle? This fourth book in the series by Guler provides just that, in spades. It takes place in the late 480's, when High King of the Celts, Uther Pendragon, is nearing death. Celtic Britain is in danger of a bloody civil war if his son Arthur does not emerge as a strong leader. Machinations, both military and spiritual, unfold in fast-paced plotting that leads to a resolution of this drama that perhaps also raises the question: Do the tales of the Round Table and good King Arthur serve as emblems of a lost Golden Age—an age when exploitation of our world and warfare were not so prevalent? Well-drawn characters and an engrossing theme keep the pages turning.
Guler draws a world-picture of the ancient Celtic society through two main characters, Marcus ap Iowerth, master spy for Uther Pendragon, and his wife, Druidic seeress Claerwen. They evoke the rhythms of speech and patterns of thought of the 5th century world of warlords, druids, and magic without being overly ornamental or stylized. Marcus throws himself into action hindering attempts by Arthur's rivals from grabbing power for themselves or Rome. Meanwhile Claerwen battles internally to understand the overpowering visions that overwhelm her with a sense of foreboding. Together, they help illustrate the thoroughly pagan sources of the Arthurian mythos, one that modern research affirms as being the true source of the stories. Guler's imaginative and dynamic retelling helps fill a gap in the corpus of Holy Grail fiction, one where the holistic and life-affirming beliefs of Druidism are given a thoughtful and compelling voice.
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