Friday, March 28, 2014

It's a Busy Life in Camelot

Another double up. Books 8 and 9 are Camelot's Destiny and Fate of Camelot by Cynthia Breeding.

Alright, so in Camelot's Destiny we get to most of the meat of the Legends; fighting Saxons, Mordred (or Medraut in this book), the Arthur/Lance/Gwen triangle and all it's complications, Camlann and Arthur's death.

And overall, it's serviceable. But you (ok, I) can really see Breeding's influences in this book. She leans heavily on Mists of Avalon for Nimue and Lancelot and the old religions and whatnot. Which is fine, just noticeable. Her Gwen is also pretty much right out of Persia Wooley's Guinevere books. Once again, that's fine, just noticable. I'm very glad she didn't take Mists' Gwen, cause she is a horrible creature. Fortunately, her Lance, Gwen and Arthur are fairly likeable. There's still too much arguing between Arthur and Gwen, but when your wife is also in love with your best friend, that does kind of make sense. Medraut is a creepy bastard and he and Morgana make good villains.

Fate of Camelot kinda... goes off the rails as Breeding attempts to do a Once and Future King kinda thing. I appreciate her trying to do a completely different take on things, but there were a few details that just didn't work for me. Seems Arthur did not die at Camlann, he was taken to Avalon, but he was healed there. Gwen had to go with him to help, basically because she's Queen. Or something. But then it gets all weird with her being stuck in Faerie because the god Cerunos is infatuated with her and yeah... I like the supernatural in my Arthurian legends, but I find it works best if it is on the edges, interacting but not intersecting. But here we have unicorns and faries and it just seemed too much. Eventually Lance rescues Gwen from Faerie (of course), and Arthur says she can go with Lance, since Arthur is too busy roaming Britain and whatnot trying to keep the peace with the Saxons. Morgana's still running around, but she's kinda ineffectual for most of the book where she just pops up now and then basically to mention, numerous times, that she has to kill Guinevere. Which she does at the end, by unleashing the bubonic plague on Camelot. Uh ok? Anyway, Morgana also dies in a most unsatisfying way and I just found a lot of this book basically that, unsatisfying.

Now what I DID like is that she got the Grail Quest with Galahad and Peredur just right. All their stupidity and wanderings and whatnot and all the details are very good, and even if her Galahad is a prat, he's not as bad a prat as Galahad's often are. I kept just wanting to stay with Galahad and groaned whenever I started a new chapter and we were back to Lance and Gwen. Cause they got boring.

A fun little read.

Friday, March 07, 2014

I combined books 6 and 7 into one post as they are books 3 and 4 of Maurice Druon's Accursed Kings series, The Poisoned Crown and The Royal Succession.

The Poisoned Crown picks up where the Strangled Queen stops off; Louis X is now free to marry Clemence of Hungary and shore up succession, since his daughter, poor little Jeanne, could now be considered a bastard.

This book picks up more on how horrible a King Louis is; he's not terribly bright, he has a horrid temper and he gives in to pretty much any request made by his powerful, strong-willed uncle, Charles of Valois. Louis launches an incredibly ill-fated campaign against the province of Flanders, and what he had hoped would be a war that would leave him in good standing, did nothing but further his reputation as a weak king.

We meet sweet Clemence who, at first, is pious and greatful at her lot in life, to be Queen of France, but she quickly sees her new husband is definitely not a great king like she was hoping him to be.

Our tragic, young Lombard, Guccio, becomes a favourite of the Queen when he escorts her to France, and he nearly dies because he is showing off, and so he cannot immediately be reconciled with his secret, pregnant wife, Marie, who's family has basically disowned her for marrying the Italian, and who has been sent to a convent to bear her 'sinful' child.

And the formidable Mahaut, takes it upon herself to put a king on the throne that she can deal with, namely her son-in-law, Louis' younger brother Phillipe. The Game of Thrones starts in earnest.

To me, The Royal Succession felt the most SoIaFish so far. I can definitely see some inspiration here for GRRM. The election of a new Pope through some tricks definitely put me in mind of a certain election towards the end of Storm of Swords. Plus the succession here IS a mess. Louis X without a male heir. His wife, Clemence is pregnant, but of course, they don't know if she carries a boy. Even just selecting a Regent for the kingdom in the meantime calls for great expediture of bribes and political manuevring, till at last, Phillipe, Louis's brother, comes out as Regent. Louis son, Jean I is born, but that goes horribly wrong, and then there are swapped babies and lovers torn assunder and more murder and rebellion and even though Phillipe is crowned at the end of this book, one doesn't feel like the good guy has won. Which is often a feeling GRRM gives you too.

And now, I wait for the next volume to be released. Which is also very GRRM-like.