What are you reading?

I’m reading Alice Borchardt’s The Dragon Queen. Subtitled “The Tales of Guenivere” it’s an Arthurian tale set in dark ages Britain (as these stories usually are).

For the longest time, I couldn’t decide if I liked it, and I’m still not 100% sure. There are some things about it that bother me, but there are other things that I think are really interesting. First of all, the story not only changes point of view pretty regularly, it changes voice as well — large sections of it are in first-person, as Guenivere is telling the story of what happened to her. The other parts are told in third person — it makes for a little bit of a strange narrative flow.

Another thing that bothered me at first is the presence of Maeniel (the werewolf from her other series). Inserting him into this Arthurian tale struck me as a little bit gratuitious, but as the story has progressed his role has diminished. I appreciate that.

The novel does a couple of interesting things with the traditional Arthur canon. Merlin is made out to be a villain; he is interested in holding power over Arthur, and by extension, the high kingship of Britain. Uther is alive and well, knows Arthur is his son, and had him fostered by his aunt Morgane (aka Morgan LeFay). Guenivere, rather than being made out as a foolish Christian pawn (as she is in MZB’s Mists of Avalon), is a noble descendant of Boadiccea, the celtic queen who fought against the Roman invasion. She was raised by Maeniel and his wolves, and has a strong celtic, neo-pagan philosophy. She refuses to bow to the will of Merlin, and Merlin (rightly) fears the influence she will hold over Arthur.

There is so much juggling of the canon here, I’m not sure where the story is really going. Right now both Arthur and Guenivere are involved in separate quests to save the Flower Queen — a manifestation of the Goddess — in different times. Or something like that, I’m not really sure.

It’s an interesting book, but it’s a slow read. If you like new takes on classic stories, this one may suit you. If you’re a hard core Arthurian devotee, you may be insulted by the liberties this novel takes.