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Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country (Guenevere Novels) Hardcover – February 2, 1999

3.1 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Guenevere Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This is the first part of a trilogy chronicling the life of Queen Guenevere. Beginning with the young King Arthur who is preparing for the war that will unite Britain, the book recounts the marriage of Guenevere and Arthur, the growth of Arthur's court, and Guenevere's adulterous affair with Lancelot.

Although told mainly from Guenevere's point of view, this is a truly epic narrative, encompassing pageantry, political intrigue, war, and the conflict between the old pagan religion and Christianity. At times earthy, sensual, and violent, it is a powerful romantic drama firmly rooted in historical Britain, a modern yet traditional retelling of the stories given definitive form in the first four books of Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur.

The characters are grippingly evoked as realistic, living, and breathing human beings rather than simple archetypes, yet the writing is effortlessly lyrical, with the elegant flow of folktale. In emotional depth, Guenevere is comparable to Parke Godwin's fine Arthurian romance, Firelord.

This title is Rosalind Miles's 17th book. She is the author of the highly praised I, Elizabeth and The Women's History of the World. In 1990, she won the Network Award for outstanding achievement in the field of writing, and the same year she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. --Gary S. Dalkin, Amazon.co.uk

From Publishers Weekly

Prolific English journalist and novelist Miles (I, Elizabeth) offers a feminist, New Age version of the Arthurian legend in her amply stocked but overripe work. Through his marriage to Guenevere, queen of the pagan matriarchy of the Summer Country, Arthur is well on his way to becoming king of all the Britons. However, Merlin, his tutelary spirit, frowns upon this marriage and prophesies that Guenevere will prove untrue. Guenevere is bedeviled by the machinations of her malevolent step-cousin/uncle Malgaunt, while Arthur's unknown, unhappy past invades his life in the figure of his half-sister Morgan le Fay, who seduces him and lures Arthur and Guenevere's only son, Amir, to an early death. The incestuous fruit of Arthur's union with Morgan?Mordred?becomes Arthur's nemesis. In Miles's take on the legend, the principals are locked in passionate conflict: Queen Guenevere is stronger, more resolute, courageous and persevering than King Arthur. Though portrayed as a frank, generous golden knight, Arthur nevertheless proves putty in the successive hands of Merlin, Guenevere and Morgan le Fay. Merlin, a wild, withered, yellow-eyed druid, is also undone by Morgan and appears to abandon Arthur to his fate. Only when Arthur falls under Morgan's sway does Guenevere succumb to her love for Lancelot, one of the novel's freshly conceived figures. The matriarchal way of life in Guenevere's Summer Country, with its capital at Camelot and its goddess residing in the misty Vale of Avalon, appears as infinitely more civilized and attractive than those states where men rule. Unfortunately, the novel's characterization is sometimes trite, and its prose style is trying, veering between downright coarse (perhaps in an attempt to be lusty) and syrupy. Aficionados of Arthurian romance will be pleased with the included maps, family trees and list of the novel's 75 or so characters.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Series: Guenevere Novels
  • Hardcover: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (February 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609603620
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609603628
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,088,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I love Arthuriana and am always interested in any new take on the legend. I was happy to find this book at the library...until I started reading it. I wish I could give it zero stars, but Amazon doesn't allow that.

Previous reviewers have already pointed out everything I found bad about the book (character inconsistencies, poor writing, etc.) I did finish the book (stupidly hoping beyond hope that it would improve) so I feel comfortable advising people looking for an entertaining read to avoid this. If you're interested in Guenevere I'd recommend Nancy McKenzie's "Queen of Camelot", Sharan Newman's series or Persia Woolley's trilogy. I would also recommend Helen Hollick's series for those looking for a telling devoid of magic.
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Format: Hardcover
I read most current versions of the Arthurian legends; most of them are no great shakes. This one, sadly, falls into that category. This is not a /bad/ book, it is just not a terribly /good/ one.
Like many current works pertaining to the tales of Arthur, this one is set nebulously in "historical times". There are trappings to make it seem like tale takes place just a bit after the Romans pull out of Britain, but only hints. There are a host of anachronisms which would not stand out if only she had placed the tales outside of time, much as Sharan Newman did. Of history, there is little. Of fantasy, there is little, also -- no dragons, no magic, just a lot of very strong-willed and weak- willed people. In fact this is one of the problems -- her main characters cannot make up their minds as to whether they are dynamic leaders or merely swept along by events larger than themselves.
Guenevere is neither a truly strong nor engaging character. At least half of her dialogue takes place in her head; she seems incredibly reticent to speak her mind. Her love for Arthur is immediate and wholehearted, without any real reason. She leads a group of vague pagans who all worship The Mother, a wholy benign being who seems to insist on a lot of sex, very little ceremony, and no strong thought other than "We Are Not Christian". Apparently Guenevere should be a warleader as well as a political leader for her people, yet despite the fact that she is 20-odd years old when we first meet her, she has had no training in battle. On the other hand, she has an immediate grasp of tactics the moment she views a battle.
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Format: Paperback
It's always a delight to find yet another perspective of the Arthurian legends, and this one is intriguing. I loved the Mists of Avalon, of course, but Ms. Miles' story encourages us to take another look at Bradley's Morgan and Guenevere. For those of us who haven't read the 80 plus Arthurian books that other reviewers refer to, this is a wonderful story that doesn't dull our wits with Welsh names that are impossible to pronounce (as much as I love Wales... don't get me wrong...). In short, it is a wonderful story and it presents the reader with new ideas. The only reason I didn't give it five stars was because it could have given the "witches" at Morgan's convent a more comprehensive historical background. I am looking forward to reading the next in the series.
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Format: Hardcover
Guenevere is the daughter of the Queen of the Summer Country, a title she takes on upon her mother's inopportune death, engineered by Merlin. Merlin has foreseen the dangers that Guenevere poses to Arthur, so he arranges everything he can to prevent the two from meeting. He did not forsee the persistence of Arthur, indeed, does not foresee that Arthur can think for himself. In this novel, it is always a danger when Arthur thinks for himself. He is much better off when he takes the advice of his advisors, rather than thinking on his own.
Unlike most recent novels that try to avoid Mallory and his romantic predecessors by focusing instead on Celtic and Roman legends and mythologies, Miles tries to blend the two. It might have been a successful blend had the characters been more likeable and fully fleshed. Guenevere is not the powerful Celtic queen, but the helpless, selfless (and I hate to use the term) nag whose extreme love for her and Arthur's son leads to a breakdown in their marriage, especially after Arthur (yet again following his own counsel) takes the boy to the battle that leads to the boy's death. Arthur finally falls victim to Morgan's wiles (who inexplicably is always trying to destroy Arthur. Apparently you are supposed to kill the son of the man who imprisoned you, even when the son is the one who gets you out of the nunnery and gives you your very own palace.) and Guenevere starts her liaison with Lancelot in the annoying manner of courtly love. Reading Lancelot whine about his honor sets one's teeth on edge.
The characters rarely break one dimension, especially Lancelot, but this follows in the tradition of Mallory and de Troyes. I have complained in other reviews that the character of Arthur is rarely fully fleshed out.
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