- File Size: 1445 KB
- Print Length: 634 pages
- Publisher: Hermione Books; 1 edition (November 12, 2015)
- Publication Date: November 12, 2015
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B017A4L28C
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #661,904 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Lancelot: Her Story Kindle Edition
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Lesbians, Star War fans, and Games of Throne partisans will find joy reading this book.
Unfortunately, the premise is the only thing that the story solidly delivered. At first I thought I might have gone into the book with the wrong reading protocol. At first glance, the prose style gives the impression of being a YA novel (and one on the younger end of the YA range), though the blurb and marketing materials give no indication in that direction. Short direct sentences, sparse description, lots of telling and relatively little “showing”. (Check out the Amazon preview to get a taste of what I mean.)
But other than the writing style, the book definitely doesn’t say “YA” to me, in particular in the continual emphasis on a violent and misogynistic depiction of Dark Age society, and repeated (although rarely graphic) references to sexual violence. (One may debate the historic accuracy of the depiction, and I realize that YA doesn't shy away from sexual topics, but this aspect definitely didn't feel YA to me.) The other aspect that doesn’t fit the YA paradigm is the book’s slow and monotonous pace. While the characters are continually doing things, there is little in the way of an overall plot arc. Events plod from one battle to the next assignation to another rescue of a damsel in distress. And then, after a great number of pages, they stop. There is, evidently, a sequel, because this volume ends before we get to the Arthur/Lancelot crisis, the Modred betrayal, and the other end-of-story plot elements.
While the story does an admirable job of cramming many of the medieval Arthurian tales into a single text (we get Gawain and the Green Knight, the abduction of Guinevere by Melwas, the begetting of Mordred, and many many more) it fails to make sense of them as a unified narrative. This may be due to too close a loyalty to the original texts (which were never intended to serve as a coherent narrative), although plotting and the identity of the primary characters is the only aspect in which this loyalty shows.
“Lancelot: Her Story” follows the modern neo-pagan version of the Arthurian mythos, in which conflict plays out not only between Britons and Saxons but between the fading remnants of an ancient goddess-worshiping society and the dominance of a sex-negative patriarchal Christianity. In execution, it copies the playbook of “The Mists of Avalon” and its successors rather than working from a more historic Dark Age context. Douglas’s Lancelot balances her way between the two cultures in parallel with the way she balances between two genders: raised a Christian and raised a boy, but in many ways more comfortable with the more accepting goddess-culture and with her female identity. (Note that while Lancelot spends most of the book passing as a man to the majority of the other characters, she is not presented as a transgender character and uniformly identifies internally with female pronouns, although she regularly contemplates topics of gender identity.)
Although one might think that a story centering around a cross-dressing lesbian Lancelot would examine gender roles from a critical and enlightened perspective, there is an annoying tendency for all the identified-as-sympathetic female characters to have a case of “I’m not like those other girls.” While Lancelot’s cross-gender upbringing might have been due to trauma, we’re given previous signs that she’s “not like other girls” in her tomboyish preference for running wild in the woods and her longing for spirited horses, along with her disdain for sewing and other feminine pursuits. Guinevere, too, is signaled as sympathetic by her rejection of traditionally feminine activities and her interest in reading and in riding horses. And much later in the book when Guinevere takes on a protégé who also becomes something of a substitute daughter to Lancelot, we know she’s going to be an important character because she doesn’t sew or spin well, her behavior is unruly, and she enjoys swordplay and learning to read.
Rather than critiquing gender roles, the story accepts the premise that traditional femininity is uninteresting, not admirable, and ill-suited to a protagonist. Most of the other women in the book are either downtrodden wives, manipulative seductresses, or dead in childbirth (or from sexual assault).
There were a few other issues that grated on me, but for the most part they hit personal idiosyncrasies rather than being writing flaws. In the end, the book’s worst flaw was that it never grabbed hold of me and sucked me in. I fought my way, step by monotonous step, to the end of the book.
Top international reviews
This is the story of Lancelot, a woman raised as a man by her father after the mother's death. She loves other women and, of course, she falls in love with Queen Guinevere.
SPOILERS from now on
I will start from what I liked, because when I changed my review I actually raised the starts from two to four. I enjoyed the story of Morgana, how she wants to defeat Arthur and uses Guinevere for her purposes (and Guinevere knows of that, but she can't imagine Morgana as a true villain, as she is quite fond of her), I enjoyed immensely the idea of a Guinevere that is not at all loyal to Arthur and the only reason why she doesn't betray him (as in, following Morgana's scheme) is that se doesn't want to ruin her love for Lancelot, but most of all I enjoyed Lancelot as a character. She started a bit flat, I think, but she is more defined the more you read and you can see and feel how hard it is for her, especially regarding her friendship with Gawain and the secret she has to keep. I also liked the contrast between Guinevere and Lancelot, with a jealous Guinevere that definitely reminded me of Malory's one, ready to attack any woman around Lancelot and cold towards any person around her, but I couldn't often understand her motivations, or feel what she felt for Lancelot, as it seemed to me more like she managed to find another woman who liked women and be happy with that, than really falling in love with Lancelot.
In general, while the plot felt a bit disjoined, because of the quick changes in PoV, all the themes and episodes fall into places: Gawain's search for his daughter (who ends up being Sir Galahad), Mordred (and I can't wait to read more about him), Morgana's plot and Drian (I hope she will be Dinadan in future books)- the majority of what happened falls into the right parts of the puzzle.
My only main problem is the relationsip between Guinevere and Lancelot, as I couldn't really feel any kind of love between them, the story tells me there is but it doesn't show me, the recurring theme of women dressed as men to be what they want to be, and the first part of the book. The first part of the book is incredibly slow and nothing really happens there, as the plot really starts moving by the end of the book, when Morgana decides to make her move. I was also a little confused by Arthur as a character. He is immensely hated by Guinevere but Lancelot is incredibly loyal to him, and I couldn't feel anything: he is flat enough that I couldn't understand why would Guinevere hate him (he behaves terribly, but then they also work together, so I would expect a bit of mixed feelings from Guinevere's side) and why would Lancelot be so loyal (I am not even sure that they interact).
To conclude: I immensely enjoyed the last part of the novel, the way the plot thickens and the new characters are introduced and I will surely wait for the new book.