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Isolde, Queen of the Western Isle (Tristan and Isolde Novels, Book 1) Hardcover – July 9, 2002

3.4 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Scholar-historian Miles, author of the popular Guenevere trilogy (Queen of the Summer Country; The Knight of the Sacred Lake; The Child of the Holy Grail), returns to the Arthurian-era British Isles to weave an ornate tapestry of pride, mysticism and love. This first book in Miles's new Tristan and Isolde trilogy is a fantastical riff on the classic account of passionate star-crossed lovers. The young Isolde is the beautiful Princess of Ireland, the Western Isle. Blessed with the gift of healing, she is also cursed with a wildly passionate mother, the Queen, ruled by her desire for men rather than concern for her people. While the Queen is more caricature than character, the feminist Miles presents a fully realized woman in Isolde: sexual, spiritual, tormented and impassioned. Tristan is nearly as well crafted, first appearing to Isolde as a nameless, wounded pilgrim whom she must nurse back to health, then revealing himself as a glorious young prince. The story line follows the traditional tale, wherein Isolde is betrothed to Tristan's uncle, King Mark of Cornwall, here a bumbling, effete antihero. Rounding out the cast are characters from Arthurian legend: an aging, wise Merlin; the dashing Arthur; his beloved Guenevere, Isolde's friend and former schoolmate. Miles's fantasy-reading audience will welcome her richly worded return to old England.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The acclaimed author of the "Guenevere Trilogy" presents a new, equally mythic heroine in this first installment of a new series. At a time of encroaching Christianity, medieval Ireland is one of the last strongholds of goddess worship. Isolde, princess of Erin, is caught in a tangle of intrigue and love when her mother, the queen, sends her greatest knight to Cornwall to challenge King Mark for rule of his land. Tristan, the nephew and champion of King Mark, kills the queen's knight in single combat but is mortally wounded himself by a poisoned dagger. Only Isolde, known throughout Ireland for her powers of healing, has the ability to save his life. During his convalescence, the two fall desperately in love. And so begins one of the best known tragic love stories of the centuries. Miles stunningly retells a story long celebrated in song and poetry, with a skillful blend of realism and mysticism. Almost everyone knows prior to reading this trilogy that there will be no happy ending, but one can't help but hold out hope that Tristan and Isolde will live happily ever after. Recommended for all public libraries.
- - Jane Baird, Anchorage Municipal Lib., AK
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (July 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609609602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609609606
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,745,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I love Rosalind Miles' historical fiction because she manages to write romantic stories that aren't sugary and history that really comes to life on the page. The Guenevere trilogy was outstanding in that way, and Isolde is actually even better. This novel takes a fresh look at a story that's always been part of the Arthurian cycle, but has been pushed aside in favor of characters like Morgan le Fay and Guenevere. Long consigned to opera and melodrama, the Tristan and Isolde legend is worthy of its own re-telling, and this book (which is the first of three), gives the reader a stunning historical recreation and a new life to an old legend.

Isolde and her mother, the Queen of Ireland, are incredibly compelling portraits of powerful, intelligent women (although the Queen is not without her flaws--she has the same weakness for the opposite sex that seems to afflict some of our male politicians). A lot of historical fiction writers strive for this but never quite manage it. Rosalind Miles' female characters jump off the pages, and her portrayals of men are just as sympathetic and enlightening.
Unlike many versions of the Arthurian legend, this book avoids New Age-y imagery as well as romance novel cliches. I highly recommend it to any fan of historical fiction or fiction in general. A very entertaining and enlightening read from a writer who is a natural storyteller.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this book because I previously enjoyed Rosalind Miles Guenevere novels. This book, however, is miles above those books. My one issue with the Guenevere books was that the title character could be a bit whiny and prone to fits and tantrums, which got on my nerves after a bit (still good books, but it did get old in sections). Isolde in contrast is strong and independent, but also has doubts and uncertainty without resorting to practically tearing her hair out. (And when Guenevere appears in this novel, I actually like her better than I did in her own books).
The characters are well developed and interesting and you really believe in their emotions, thoughts an actions. The history is interesting and I really see that Rosalind Miles has developed as a writer and storyteller.
I look forward to the next book in this series!
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Format: Hardcover
ISOLDE: QUEEN OF THE WESTERN ISLE is the first installment in Rosalind Miles' new trilogy retelling the legend of Tristan and Isolde (or Iseult.) It is a well-done story, though focusing almost entirely on Isolde's side of things, and I am anxious to read the next book.
Miles' writing is clear and often beautiful, and she does (or seems to be doing, so far,) justice to a lovely, tragic old legend. Some of her supporting characters (the Christian priest, Dominian, and Tristan's rival Andred, for example) fall a little flat, with only one side of what must be quite complex natures shown to the reader. Tristan and Isolde themselves are well-drawn, and the love between them shines incandescent from the pages. The faithful maid Braingwain is also wonderful. It seems Miles writes her protagonists thoroughly and well, and her villians with less enthusiasm. Characters like Isolde's mother and King Mark are sketched somewhere in between: not done as well as the main pair but still clearly presented and easy for the reader to love or hate or pity as their changing natures dictate rash actions of varying intent.
The contrast between good and evil is also a bit too marked in the book, amplified by the two-dimensionality of the main antagonists. Some chapters end with lines about demons of evil cackling ecstatically and setting to their devious work -- all meant to be dramatic, I suppose, but it comes off silly. Still, a few moments of annoyance to do not a terrible story make. ISOLDE is thoroughly engrossing and difficult to put down; I was kept quite busy cheering Isolde on, and disappointed when I turned the last page.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm a great lover of historical fiction. I'm an even greater lover of romance in historical fiction, but I really thought this poorly done.
It's my first Rosalind Miles book and already I know that her writing style and my reading preferences do not match. I do understand that Ms. Miles has a thorough understanding of women in history and the Arthurian legends. The material is classic, but the retelling was terrible. The overdone sap (Redundant? I thought so too, but sap could indeed be overdone) squeezed every sap-sympathetic hormone in my body. Lots of cheese as well. Too many "Oh my love, my love!" and "... she didn't know she was the most beautiful woman in the room..." (Or *he* didn't know he was the most handsome... gag! ::eyes roll:: Puh-leeze!) and what's with the "Yessssss....."? Who talks (or even thinks) like that? Ssssssssnakes, maybe. And those horrible perception changes! Going from one person to another in the same scene. Have mercy. I'm not stupid. I knew who was talking or thinking about what, but it would have been better to stick to one perception in one scene. I know it was an omniscient POV, but even an omniscient POV needs discipline. I simply didn't care what the commoner was thinking on the side, or what his wife had to say about it. In fact, I didn't care about what the surrounding knights, kings, lords, queens, etc. were thinking when one (and only one) character had more business to the scene above everyone else. I remember indulging myself to such a thing when I wrote as a twelve year old...
The material was fabulous. The story could've been fabulous. I just couldn't stand the writing. The writer is brilliant when it comes to history. I'm not crazy about her fiction, though.
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