Acquired Book By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! I received a complimentary copy of “Mistress of Legend” direct from the author Nicole Evelina in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I appreciate reading Nicole Evelina’s Guinevere Tale series:
Evelina has taken us into the heart of Guinevere and her girlhood peers, as we walk inside those hours she spent on Avalon honing her talent and learning about the world from a point of view not concurrent to her parents or ancestral home. Evelina re-develops the image of Guinevere and the back-story therein, allowing us the grace to re-examine what we think we know of the characters being brought back to life inside this trilogy. It’s a curious undertaking, because although it’s rooted in a canonical history of literature, mythos and lore; there is a new attempt at re-developing a story whose depths are grounded by the character’s will of heart and spirit of passage through their growing years.
The complexity and the authentic voice inter-combine to bring a scope of realism to Guinevere and to the back-story of her life. It’s a wholly original complex origin story where even if you are as under-read as I am about Camelot and Arthurian Legend, you can curl inside this novel due to how well-told Evelina evoked it’s heart out of the pages she lent us to read!
Mythology, fable and lore can feel disconnected at times to an actuary world if the conception of their perimeters are not fully fleshed out and brought to such a high level of vision by their writers. This is where Nicole Evelina excels as her vision of the story is portrayed in such a convicting manner as to etch your heart directly into the lifeblood of her characters; you feel everything they are sensing and appreciate the direct connection in order to best understand their world. Definitely a harbinger of emotionally writ historical fiction centred on known persons who have inspired many but of whom feel more three dimensional inside this story as they are presented with equal fragility as their contemporary peerage.
The research Evelina put into this work of a trilogy is evidenced by how she chose to tell the story, first through direct sight of Guinevere approaching hard choices and managing her emotions in the thick of it and secondly, through enlivening the background with such scope of depth as to embrace the mystical and mythology of how Camelot exists. She even kept the continuity alive by bringing together the origins of those who call Avalon home with their familial heritages and beliefs; such as I celebrated in seeing Guinevere’s Rhiannon and Lugh arriving in time for her ascension to Priestess of Avalon. The fundamentals of religion and ancestry are inter-woven to the core of who Guinevere is and what she stood for thereby granting the reader a more grounded vision of the woman Guinevere became latter in life.
– as disclosed on my review of Daughter of Destiny, Guinevere’s Tale No.1
Legend says Guinevere spent her final days in penance in a convent, but that is far from the truth.
Having escaped death at the stake, Guinevere longs to live a peaceful life in Brittany with Lancelot, but the threat of Arthur’s wrath quickly separates the lovers. Guinevere finds herself back in Camelot, but it is not the peaceful capital she once knew; the loyalty of the people is divided over Arthur’s role in her death sentence. When war draws Arthur away from Britain, Mordred is named acting king. With Morgan at his side and a Saxon in his bed, Mordred’s thirst for power becomes his undoing and the cause of Guinevere’s greatest heartache.
In the wake of the deadly battle that leaves the country in civil war, Guinevere’s power as the former queen is sought by everyone who seeks to ascend the throne. Heartbroken and refusing to take sides in the conflict, she flees north to her mother’s Votadini homeland, where she is at long last reunited with Lancelot. The quiet life she desires is just beginning when warring tribal factions once again thrust her into an unexpected position of power. Now charged with ending an invasion that could bring an end to the Votadini tribe and put the whole island in the hands of the Saxons, Guinevere must draw upon decades of experience to try to save the people she loves and is sworn to protect.
Places to find the book:
Published by Lawson Gartner Publishing
on 15th September, 2018
Format: Trade Paperback
Now available: A box set containing Daughter of Destiny,
Camelot’s Queen, and Mistress of Legend
Guinevere is remembered for her role as King Arthur’s wife and for her adulterous affair with Lancelot. But there is so much more to her story…
Priestess. Queen. Warrior. Experience the world of King Arthur through Guinevere’s eyes as she matures from a young priestess who never dreamed of becoming queen to the stalwart defender of a nation and a mistress whose sin would go down in history. Throughout it all, Guinevere she faces threats from both foreign powers and within her own court that lead her to place her very life on the line to protect the dream of Camelot and save her people.
This compendium of Nicole Evelina’s two-time Book of the Year award-winning trilogy – Daughter of Destiny, Camelot’s Queen, and Mistress of Legend – gives fresh life to an age-old tale by adding historical context and emotional depth. Spanning more than three decades, it presents Guinevere as an equal to the famous men she is remembered for loving, while providing context for her controversial decisions and visiting little-known aspects of her life before and after her marriage to King Arthur.
Book No. 1 Daughter of Destiny (See Also Review)
Book No. 2 Camelot’s Queen (See Also Review)
Book No. 3 Mistress of the Legend
My Review of mistress of legend:
As ‘Camelot’s Queen’ concluded, I felt emotionally wrecked as it was a very difficult installment to move through in so many ways. Here were my final thoughts on the story itself – hinting towards what you will read in the middle of the series and of where we left Guinevere after such soul crushing events afflicting her life:
In Guinevere’s case, everything was stolen from her and nothing was quite right afterwards. Her soul was splintered and shattered, fragmented worst than glass wherein Arthur could not see her pain nor understand the magnitude of how far she had fought to return to him. This was the most sombering part of her story – to recognise how everything was predestined, interconnected and soul-wrenching – to every layer of the pieces forming together and turning against each other at the same time.
I think if Guinevere hadn’t had the time she had in Avalon originally, she never would have had the courage to overcome this moment in her life. Avalon taught her many things, but one of the best lessons it taught her was how to slow down her mind, re-examine her feelings and to truly focus on things that were not connected to her emotions at all. She sought re-balance on her return to Camelot but also, a measure of peace within her spirit – to find a way to re-enter her life, such as it were. On that note, going back to her husband was bittersweet as Evelina points out nothing is quite the way it was before she was taken against her will. Too many things are in play, even on her return, that continue to place her and Arthur in jeopardy; marked measures where they are merely pawns in a game they do not understand.
What is compelling about reading her story, is seeing how she rises to the occasion to dig a bit deeper than she felt she could and find a path out of the chaos. She has advisors and friends to guide her – Merlin, the Lady of the Lake, Lancelot and even Imogen whose quiet manner had a larger effect on Guinevere’s state of being. Each rut in the road, she is attempting to sort out the best way forward, but sometimes, life does not afford a direct route to your future. Sometimes it takes time, more time than you think you have to spare before wrongs are upturnt and a solid footing becomes your walkway.
As we enter the last installment of the series, Guinevere is being taken back to Camelot – supposedly as a person whose going to be forgiven by Arthur, though I was as uncertain of the truth of that statement as much as Lancelot! However, in her current state – she was not in a position to question it nor to believe she could have continued with Lancelot on their quest to find exile together if only to forestall their individual fates after having angered and humiliated Arthur with their tryst. It was an era of utmost honour and appearances meant everything – to allow Guinevere to return without Lancelot was impressive enough, I did not question why Arthur would not forgive Lancelot as I hadn’t found Arthur to be an understanding ruler when it came to matters of the heart. Especially not when it involved Guinevere.
Despite the uncomfortable bits to Guinevere’s recovery sequences – I had to give credit to Ms Evelina for writing a realistically crucial sequence about how someone can return back from such a cruel fate as severe burns. What the mind, body and soul go through after such physical trauma and injury is incredibly layered – all of which Evelina made a point at showing on behalf of Guinevere. There was a lot of truism in showing how vulnerable she became and how desperate her pleas were for relief. Your heart goes out to her immediately – not just for the situation at hand but because you’ve grown close to Guinevere throughout her journey within this series. She feels as real to you now as anyone else you’ve ever known and finding her in this kind of pain is rather difficult.
Seeing Arthur in this light – was curious – how had he changed from the man who was never without the confidence to do what he bid? I had to agree with Guinevere on that note alone – this time round Arthur was less than himself and definitely more concerned with his reputation than he was in having his own voice the rule of the land. Except I am not sure if it was that even keeled to understand – the power struggles Arthur was facing and the manner in which deception was slinking closer to his door placed him at a keen disadvantage. In that one instance, you could see why he needed Guinevere and her impartiality. If anyone could re-fuell the support and alliance of a people it would be Guinevere – the preferred choice of her people and the guiding light in regards to leadership. Arthur had lost a part of himself in the public eye so for me, it felt necessary to have Guinevere stepped back into a role where she could command not only attention but respect for voicing her power of judgement.
I knew I was not fond of Mordred – yet in this installment there are so many reasons to distrust the son of Arthur and Morgan, it is hard to know where to begin to complain about him! A bit of a classic case of being given too much power too quickly where the impulsiveness of youth could turn its ugly head back round on the naivete of someone like Mordred who did not fully deserve the responsibility given to them.
Morgan is so dearly secretive – you have to wonder if she ever trusts someone other than herself! Whenever Guinevere tries to beg her confidence, the other woman shrugs off the suggestion as if it weren’t a true request. Morgan plays by her own rules, answers to her own talents and in many ways, is the bone of contention for Guinevere who would prefer the two work together rather than constantly remaining apart; allowing them each to only have the foresight to understand half of what is going to happen. The Morgan of today and the Morgan of yesterday are not too far apart from one another – as the ways in which Morgan acts now is highly reflective of the young girl she as during her training years at Avalon (as reflected within Daughter of Destiny).
I agreed with Guinevere on the severity of torture implemented by Mordred – against a bishop who was first a prisoner and then an unwilling pawn in Morgan’s plotting. I refer to this sequence below under my content note which is to serve as a warning as for me this sequence had a trigger effect for what repulsed me visually to read. I hadn’t realised it was going to go into such heavy detail about the after effects of such a tortured death – as the bishop did not die but rather lived through injuries he constantly was sustaining due to where Mordred had placed him. It was Guinevere who brought back to focus how Camelot and Avalon were connected through their concept of mercy and how this kind of reckless action could not (nor should not) be tolerated by a temporary replacement for a King or the main ruler overall.
As Mordred rose in his power, the more I distrusted his actions even a bit ahead of Guinevere. For her, I felt the worst as she was torn between her honour and her duties – I did question why she hadn’t left completely rather than to stay. By staying she did remain privy to certain actions and certain outcomes – but for me in the end, all of that was less important than to gain the attention of Arthur. Though at this point, I feared the timing would be too late, the die was seriously cast against him and with the inaction on behalf of Guinevere to secure a way to circumvent the path Mordred was taking – I felt all was rather lost to be honest.
Evelina clearly shows how power can transfer between father and son; whilst proving that even the fathers with the best of intentions to raise their children to follow in their footsteps can in effect fall short in regards to how to appropriately pass the torch to the children who refuse to use the mentorship they were given for the good. You also start to see how through the long process of healing, Guinevere was still sorting out how she could best be of influence in both Camelot and Avalon. I felt she was genuinely conflicted – does she act to try to reverse the events which were moving too fast into the future or does she hold back, waiting to see what would unfold without her interventions?
My favourite scene by far was the reunion Guinevere shared with Mayda! What a kind hearted and warmly affectionate woman she is who truly found her heart’s calling by finding the work she inherited from the convent was truly what enriched her soul. There was a bittersweetness to their reunion as well but for the most part, these two women embraced each other and were thankful for the fortitude of insight towards placing Mayda here to protect her life. I know Guinevere had new regrets towards that end, now that she had new information regarding Mayda’s sister (Mordred’s new wife) — for me, what was beautiful about this sequence is for a short moment in time the two woman could put to rest what was evolving into their world which would bring about a war no one would want to see fought.
I enjoyed the elemental aspects of the story – where Guinevere is having experiences with second sight through the visions she can’t always control but of which reveal to her the events of the present if not the immediate future. It is through these visions we learn more about the fate of Arthur and Lancelot whilst being clued into what Mordred is planning to accomplish against Arthur. It isn’t for the faint of heart as Mordred truly wants to end the reign of Arthur but not just by an act of eliminating him – no, he wishes to take out the hold Arthur has on Camelot itself. To discredit his strength and his leadership – in a way which you would believe to be folly on his part and unable to be trusted by the people. However, this is a strong instance of how people will follow those they believe in even if they are blind to their truer natures.
The sequence of time Guinevere spent in the convent itself reminded me of echoes from Illuminations (by Mary Sharratt) as she was partaking in the traditions of the convent as an outsider whereas the other novel was a more intensively close view of one woman’s journey within a convent as a believer. For Guinevere, she was open-minded enough to see the truth of how different religions have similarities to one another – how you can find solace and peace in more than one place and how curiosity can fuell knowledge.
Without Mayda ministering to Guinevere after her tragic loss, I am unsure if she would have rebounded. The emotional angst written into the heart of this final installment of the series is dearly brutal – you feel every inch of Guinevere’s desolation and her steady resolve to do something proactive to aide the cause. She is even willing to consider options that either would put herself at greater risk or allow her a measure of understanding about the overall picture of what is happening all round her. She isn’t one to rest lightly – she can’t simply have a lie-in and dismiss the fact that there is a battle evolving into a state of insurrection. She’s been foolish in her acceptance of (certain) people at face value whilst she has tried to lead with her heart only to find her trust misguided and abused. In essence, everything is dangerously wrong and is increasingly growing worse. This is not an easy novel to read – yet it is written with such a heaviness of will, of rooting yourself to Guinevere and of seeing what she must survive through – you can’t take your eyes off the pages. Almost as if you have to will yourself to remain as strong as she doesn’t feel in order for both of you to overcome this monstrous change in events.
There is a passage which moves us through the veils of this world and the world between ours – where Guinevere is in-tune with her powers as a priestess. She has a gift of sight and an ability to travel great distances without physically removing herself from where she presently is occupied. This is one of the ethereal elements that has run throughout the trilogy – of Guinevere in constant duress of what she learns and understands through what the Goddess has enabled her to know and of how she is at a disadvantage to act on that knowledge to effect any outward changes to the events she sees happening with a real-time accuracy of awareness.
As we walk through this portal with Guinevere, Evelina lengthens the grip Guinevere has on her travelling – given her a reward she never expected to receive and a longing for the traditions of the past to be restored; though it can never be. This is a passage of death and of the acceptance of how the rites of man can alter the ascension of power. It was a cunning passage all round – as it brought all the key players into the fold – Guinevere, Arthur, Mordred and Morgan. It is how they were interconnected and how their lives reverberated between the stages of battle is what truly clued you into how their lives were predestined long before they embraced life.
Evelina honours Guinevere by giving her a pause against mortality and the emotions of loss; of allowing Guinevere the respite of memory and the pain of realising the cost of war. She did not lead a life unburdened by strife nor was she allowed to love and live in the freedom of having a long lasting furlough of happiness. She had to take stock of the moments she could remember which were emboldened with the mirth she once knew as she carried the ghosts of her mind with her as she altered her present course North. A continuing testament of her unwillingness to become a burden to others and to allow her pursuit of safety to endanger others who would be guilty of aiding her escapes. No, Guinevere was a constant traveller – a woman without roots and with a fortitude of spirit that was not willing to give into depths of her sorrows. She constantly had to pick up the pieces of her fragmented life day by day – to see further than that, she surely would have gone mad.
One of the beautiful intonations of Evelina’s Historical Fantasy such as Mistress of Legend is how she has an articulation of presence inside her narrative prose. She fuells her words and her turns of phrases with a visceral edging – you not only sense what is being felt in-scene but you are clearly aware of what is behind the actions and emotions of each of her characters. In the second part of this final installment, we draw close to Lot and Anna; a husband’s fragility after war and a wife’s strength after the premature deaths of her children unite them both on an arc of purpose. You do not have to imagine what they are going through because it is how Evelina shows their physical degradation and emotional wretched souls that truly anchours you into the aftermath of what befell Camelot.
When you are hearing Lancelot’s words of soothing encouragement and of how he sees Guinevere, you can see why he is her ready champion! His sight is as true as hers is as a prophecy spilt through visions – as his heart has a purity of light when it comes to Guinevere. She has gone through the gallows in life to such a degree, it is hard for her to see the beauty he sees shining out of her even if she doesn’t quite feel the confidence he has within him to bolster her own courage. She has survived through such physical adversity as much as psychological – I could see why she felt she was less than herself – she has not felt whole for a very long time. Without the solace of a person to rally behind her – she has been left to carry her burdens in silence. Lancelot now sees the woman she was burned into out of the flames of adversity.
I admit, nothing quite prepared me or Guinevere what was awaiting her in her mother’s homelands. It was here in the third part of the novel where Evelina shows how misguided power and the pursuit of control without ethical morality can poison souls. There is more tragedy awaiting Guinevere during this period of time – far more soul wrenching that she could imagine as there would be moments that would test her spirituality and the ways in which she anchoured her faith into her blood. For she is a woman of honour and not one who takes her faith lightly – it was a brute attack from an outside force who should have been her equal but similar to Morgan, her intentions were dishonourable.
In the final portion of the novel, I must admit, my breath could release – though I hadn’t known I had held it in – but there were moments where I wondered how Evelina could end this story on anything less than a tragic note upon a hard won life of survival. She surprised me dear hearts – for the ending is not one I envisioned would be true for Guinevere but it is the one she deserved!
Fly in the Ointment:
Note on content:
As Guinevere’s injuries are quite severe and involve burns, there are some uncomfortable moments within her recovery which made me overcome with her situation. Medical narratives are ones I’ve taken a break from reading for a very long time – only just returning to reading them when I recently read my first Harlequin Medical Romance. However, in this instance – what made it feel a bit more uncomfortable for me is the fact I’ve grown to know Guinevere throughout the series and in effect, her pain felt like my own.
When it reached the tortured death of Marius, I had to stop reading the paragraphs – the scene was writ too graphically for me. It was quite horrid and in all honesty, I could have read this with less descriptive details – simply put, this could have done quite as well “he was left in the elements, hung high into the trees where his death was quickened in pace by the animals who found him”. It has the same impact and your own imagination can temper what it chooses to see rather than have all the details spilt out for you in one gory reference after another. This passage came close to leaving me quite a bit queasy.
The battle sequences reminded me of some of the scenes I struggled with getting through in the film First Knight (1995) – as of course, battle can be not just brutal but a rather grisly affair. I knew going in there were going to be scenes of war but I think at the time I was reading this story, I was more hopeful the scenes would be glossed over a bit rather than being writ with such an accuracy of knowing exactly what was befelling the soldiers on the field. In essence, it was growing to be a bit to much for me to filter. And, then of course there was that fateful scene that was rather beyond wrenching to read.
There were a few more disturbing scenes and descriptions further on inside the story-line but thankfully for the most part, there was a pull-back which allowed me to resume Guinevere’s life without feeling as if I could not finish this final chapter of her story.
Why I appreciate the after canon re-tellings of this classical story through the eyes of Nicole Evelina:
Throughout each installment, I have watched Evelina grow the character of Guinevere from a young girl into the maturity of a woman whose shoulders carried the great weight of Queen, overseer and ruler and high priestess of her chosen faith. A woman who has survived great adversities, personal loss and more than one health crisis – where you’ve questioned how she continued to rally and pull through with a courage only she could have embraced. As Evelina set the stage to play out throughout Guinevere’s life – we start to see what defined her, how she evolved and ultimately what she chose for herself as the destiny only she could control.
In the background was Arthur and Morgan – a curious pair and of course, Lancelot whose only loyalty would become an issue between Guinevere and himself in regards to what was more important to him – his relationship with her or what he felt he owed in duty when it came to defending families and staging a blockade against potential war. All of this is percolating towards telling the wider arc of the story – of how they initially crossed paths, why they became as important to each other as they had been renown and what became of them afterwards, as their paths started to diverge into different directions.
Evelina has created a dramatic arc of narrative for a reader to heartily feel attached to not only the characters they think they know from previous entries of the legend behind them but she takes you further afield. Into their everyday lives and makes you reconsider everything you’ve previously believed to be true of their legacies. In many ways, I felt the concluding title was the best way to summarise who Guinevere is to everyone: a mistress of the lore and legends which made her infamous; nearly to the brink of immortality where only a diffusion of supposition of whom she was as she lived could quay the rumours surrounding her own life. In many ways, this is what Evelina has accomplished – a dramatic arc of here Guinevere’s life could have resided.
I had intended to conclude my readings of Signe Pike’s “The Lost Queen” ahead of reading “Mistress of Legend” even though part of me felt, I ought to have concluded this trilogy first given it was how I was first introduced to this lovely sub-niche of focus within Arthurian literature. In the end, my wish is being granted as due to health reasons I had to postpone where I first began Ms Pike’s novel and had to shift into the last installment of Evelina’s trilogy.
As I move into “The Lost Queen”, I know I will re-affirm my curiosity for the Non-Fiction release by Ms Evelina (“The Once and Future Queen”) which discusses how history has reflected on Guinevere and what can be determined towards a change of heart in her regard and/or what her lasting impressions truly have been. It has sounded like an interesting ‘next chapter’ to be read after this trilogy as it knits out the realities of the lore & legend surrounding Guinevere as much as it solidifies the work Ms Evelina has put into this series by giving us another thread of entrance towards shifting perspectives between her own variant of Guinevere’s story and the one(s)which are being regularly deciphered and discussed.
I look forward to moving into “The Lost Queen” this week – as I don’t want too much time to sit between my final reading of this series and my immersion into Pike’s narrative as the two are a bit interconnected given the eras in which both authors are keenly invested in both researching and writing inasmuch as the kind of historical narrative they have left behind for us to be reading. Uniquely, Pike also has plans for writing a trilogy,..
I will be having a lovely #HistFicNewYear!
This blog tour is courtesy of:
This review is cross-posted to LibraryThing.
Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2018.
Comments via Twitter:
#JorieReads | #HistoricalFantasy@NicoleEvelina has created dramatic arc of narrative for #readers to heartily feel attached – not only the characters they think they know from previous entries of legend; she takes you further afield #Avalon
— Jorie Story | #amwriting?? (@joriestory) December 31, 2018
— Nicole Evelina (@NicoleEvelina) December 31, 2018
The gratitude is mine to you – you really honoured #Guinevere‘s life and gave us this convicting emotional saga of how her life could have been lived; you deepened the trilogy w/ the ethereal elements that are #Camelot & filled it w/ the brutalities of period specific history?
— Jorie Story | #amwriting?? (@joriestory) December 31, 2018
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: