Seven years after the death of King Arthur at Camlann, his chosen heir, Constantine, has apparently died in battle. Constantine’s widow, Isolde, granddaughter of the fabled sorceress Morgan, knows that her husband was killed by a traitor. However, proving that in war-torn Britain is a challenge Isolde is not sure she can face, particularly when so many of the petty kings refer to her as the “Witch Queen.” As she struggles to stay alive and help her country in the days following Constantine’s death, she learns that some allies are not as trustworthy as she thought they were, and foes aren’t always what they seem.
Twilight of Avalon is the first novel in Anna Elliott’s trilogy about Trystan and Isolde. It intertwines the legend with the stories of the Arthurian cycle as well, and in doing so, Elliott creates her own world. Gone are Morgause, Lancelot, and Isolde’s Irish background. Modred is the bastard son of Arthur and Morgan, Isolde the daughter of Modred and Arthur’s wife Gwynefar. It sounds a bit tawdry, but it actually works out pretty well. I had a really hard time putting this book down on more than one occasion. I think it worked particularly well for me, because I have a shameful lack of knowledge about most medieval literature and the Arturian legend (should I ever decide to go back and finish those last four classes needed for my English degree, I think I know what needs to be rectified).
In particular, I think Elliott did a really good job of illustrating the various changes that were occuring in Britain during the sixth century. One scene that particularly stuck with me was one in which Isolde and Brother Columba, a Christian hermit, went to a circle of standing stones to pray to the Christian God. It was a short scene, but I found it intriguing because of the way it combined the ways of the old gods with the newer aspects of Christianity. Admittedly, though, many of Brother Columba’s contemporaries would not be nearly as willing to put their eternal souls at risk by residing so close to the standing stones.
One of the other things I really enjoyed about this story is the interactions between the petty kings at Tintagel as they tried to figure out how to move the country forward after Constantine’s death. I felt like Elliott did a very good job of keeping the characters and egos realistic for the time.
The one thing I did feel was a little lacking in this book is the development of the alliance, sketchy as it is at this point, between Trystan and Isolde. However, I don’t know that I can call it a flaw because this is the first book in a trilogy, and so I can’t really say that it’s missing from the overall arch of the story.
I really enjoyed this novel, and I am really looking forward to reading the second novel in this series.