Child of the Holy Grail [NOOK Book]

Overview

Last in a line of proud queens elected to rule the fertile lands of the West, true owner of the legendary Round Table, guardian of the Great Goddess herself . . . a woman whose story has never been told—until now.

Brokenhearted at her parting from Lancelot and anguished over the loss of the sacred Hallows of the Goddess, Guenevere reconciles with Arthur. But their fragile peace is threatened by a new presence at Camelot. Mordred, Arthur’s son ...
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Child of the Holy Grail

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Overview

Last in a line of proud queens elected to rule the fertile lands of the West, true owner of the legendary Round Table, guardian of the Great Goddess herself . . . a woman whose story has never been told—until now.

Brokenhearted at her parting from Lancelot and anguished over the loss of the sacred Hallows of the Goddess, Guenevere reconciles with Arthur. But their fragile peace is threatened by a new presence at Camelot. Mordred, Arthur’s son by Morgan Le Fay, has come to be proclaimed heir to Guenevere and Arthur’s kingdoms. At his knighting, the great Round Table, owned by the Queens of the Summer Country since time immemorial, cracks down the center and a terrible darkness falls over Camelot. In the midst of the chaos appears a new knight, Sir Galahad, who may hold the key to the mystery of the stolen Hallows. His arrival sets into motion the Quest for the Holy Grail and the fall of Camelot, which brings Guenevere to the brink of the most dreaded tragedy of all . . . and may ultimately fulfill her destiny as the greatest Queen of the Isles.

Available now, Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country and The Knight of the Sacred Lake, Books 1 and 2 of the Guenevere Trilogy. Coming in July 2002, Isolde, Queen of the Western Isle, the First Book of the Tristan and Isolde Trilogy

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The third and final installment in Miles's feminist-inflected Guenevere trilogy set in Camelot boasts characters whose practice to deceive creates a tangled web indeed. Queen Guenevere is poised to be the good-hearted, long-suffering heroine, but she is more like a star-crossed black widow spider. Her beauty entraps both King Arthur and her knight, Sir Lancelot; once bitten, they are doomed to betray and be betrayed by Guenevere. Long ago, King Arthur fathered a son, Mordred, with his witch sister, Morgan Le Fay. After he and Guenevere reunite, an angry Morgan sends an adult Mordred to his father's court to gain admittance to the Knights of the Round Table and steal the crown from his aging father. As he is a living symbol of the affair, Guenevere is understandably cold toward Arthur's son, and finds comfort in cuckolding her husband with Lancelot. But even her most trusted knight is not without sin. Years ago, while escorting the sacred Hallows of the Goddess, or Holy Grail, Lancelot spent a night at the creepy Castle Corbenic. His hosts, the evil King Pelles, the king's beautiful, abused daughter Elaine, and the odd, elderly Dame Brisein, seemed all too eager for his company. When a new knight, 12-year-old Galahad, arrives to rival Mordred for a seat at the Round Table, Lancelot has a lot of explaining to do. Predictable melodrama and an overlarge cast of characters mar the tale, but fans of the series will yearn to know Guenevere and Camelot's fate. (July) Forecast: As the last volume in a popular trilogy, this book will be eagerly awaited, advertised by a teaser chapter in the paperback edition of The Knight of the Sacred Lake and by a colorful jacket matching those of the previoustwo volumes. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA
In this final volume of the Guenevere trilogy, Miles dazzles readers with intensified politics, ambition, humiliation, and romance. The fall of Camelot begins when Mordred is acknowledged as Arthur's heir. The Round Table cracks down the middle, and Mordred's chair throws him from his seat. Arthur continues to allow the Christians to influence his rule. When young Galahad, the son of Lancelot and Elaine, convinces the court that the sacred Hallows missing from Avalon include the cup from the Last Supper, most knights of the Round Table depart in search of the Holy Grail, leaving Camelot unprotected. Wicked Mordred and his cohorts entrap the queen with Lancelot, and Guenevere is sentenced to burn at the stake. The breathtaking battle that follows Guenevere's rescue well portrays the conflict standing between Mordred, Arthur, and Lancelot as they meet their ends prophesied by Merlin earlier in the trilogy. Chivalry, honor, duty, and love motivate actions taken by the old guard, whereas ambition, deceit, and treachery color everything done by Mordred and those who believe that he should be king. Arthurian fans will enjoy this fast-paced, lavish retelling of the fall of Camelot and its sad, romantic finish. Lists of characters and places and the juxtaposition of the diagrams of the Celtic and Christian celebrations of the year will aid the reader in distinguishing who's who in Camelot. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2001, Crown, 435p,
— Cynthia Grady
Library Journal
After the somewhat lackluster second volume in her "Guenevere" trilogy, Knight of the Sacred Lake, Miles returns to Camelot with a vengeance. Both Arthur and Guenevere are older and sadder, though no wiser. Much to the dismay of his queen, Arthur is falling further under the influence of the Christians, but the kingdom doesn't truly begin to disintegrate until Mordred, Arthur's son by the embittered Morgan Le Fay, is accepted at court and acknowledged as Arthur's heir to the throne. Into this tense atmosphere comes young Galahad, the son of Lancelot conceived through the evil machinations of Morgan Le Fay. The presence of Galahad and the destruction of the Round Table spur the older knights to go on a pilgrimage in search of the Holy Grail, leaving Camelot and Arthur alone with Mordred and his followers. Treachery ensues. Like the first two novels in this trilogy, this is destined to be a best seller and certainly adds a new and entertaining perspective to the massive quantity of Arthurian legends already in existence. Jane Baird, Z.J. Loussac P.L., Anchorage, AK Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this final installment in the Guenevere trilogy (Knight of the Sacred Lake, 2000, etc.), Miles gives a provocative twist to the search for the Holy Grail—in a beautifully rendered and elegiac tale of betrayal, the passing of the old order, and the constancy of true love. The principal characters of the Arthurian legend are soon assembled for this last chapter in the history of the Round Table and Camelot, the seat of the ancient matrilineal rulers of the Summer Country. Arthur is frail but as stubborn as ever, Guenevere still pines for Lancelot, and Mordred, Arthur's son by the vindictive Morgan le Fay, is ready to assume his royal duties. But both Merlin and Guenevere are uneasy—change is in the air, and it threatens not only Arthur and his Knights, but Guenevere, too: the Christians want to end the worship of the Goddess and her followers who live beneath the Lake at Avalon, and Morgan, as always, is bent on revenge. When Lancelot returns unexpectedly from exile, Mordred, Arthur's putative heir, is rejected by the Seat of Danger at the Round Table, reserved for "the most peerless knight in all the world," and young Galahad arrives to claim his place. When Galahad, a devout Christian, sets off with Arthur's blessing, and followed by all the Knights including Lancelot, to find the Holy Grail in Jerusalem, Arthur, ignoring Guenevere's pleas, decides to build a far-flung Empire like that of Rome. Such hubris leads to the decimation of the Knights, the destruction of the Round Table itself, along with the glories that once were Camelot, as "fate spins its will." Yet even so, Guenevere, the heroine of this feminist version of the legend, survives a near-burning at thestake, Arthur and Lancelot's betrayal, and Mordred's machinations, to find a sweet peace and love again as she rebuilds her kingdom, keeping alive the "golden dream." Intellectually satisfying historical fiction that's also immensely entertaining.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307421890
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/18/2007
  • Series: Guenevere Series , #3
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 444,316
  • File size: 1,007 KB

Meet the Author

Rosalind Miles is a well-known and critically acclaimed English novelist, essayist, and broadcaster. Her novels, including Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country and The Knight of the Sacred Lake, the preceding volumes of the Guenevere Trilogy, have been international bestsellers.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

The bitter rains of March beat on the hillside overhead. But deep in the heart of the rock, it was warm and dry. Inside the high-domed underground dwelling-place, the light from many candles played over walls swagged in blood-red velvet, looped and tied back with ropes of silver-gilt. Bright rugs from the East covered the stony floor in amber and indigo, garnet, rose, and black. A low fire glowed and murmured on the hearth, its slender plume of smoke lost in the void above.
In the center of the chamber, Merlin lay on a curiously made couch, staring at the ceiling through tightly closed eyes. A wand of golden yew lay within reach, humming softly to itself in a high, beelike whine. His hands lay loosely at his sides, palms upward, fingers reaching, ready to catch his dreams as they came down. A ring of candles shone around his head. The flames quivered and changed color, and he knew the time was near.

“Yes, yes,” he muttered tensely. “I am ready–come–”
Suddenly his thumbs began to itch. For a second his mind turned to milk, warding off the ancient sign of impending evil and danger ahead. He crushed his thumbs in his fists to drive it away. The itching intensified.

“No!” he moaned.

No, he was Merlin still; it could not be. Feverishly he composed himself again for waking sleep, the magic sleep of the Druids he had learned long ago, preparing to send his spirit from his body as he always did. Once he had made the long hard leap of faith, his spirit self would walk the astral plane, gathering the secrets of the Otherworld. When he had to return, when his roaming soul submitted to his body’s chain, he would know how to deal with what was to come.

“Come to me! Come!”

Yesss–

He could feel his soul straining at the leash, hungry for the void. Any moment now, yes, yesss–

Merlin, Merlin, attend–

A series of stabbing pains shot through his thumbs. Moaning, the old enchanter opened his eyes and forced himself to sit up. There was no avoiding it. There could be no flight of the spirit while this loomed. Evil impending? Where did the danger lie?

Throwing his skinny feet to the floor, he struggled upright and began to pace his cave dwelling, blind to the dark beauty of the place and the books and treasures he had brought there over the years. Mumbling and twitching, he came to rest at last before a silk curtain hanging on the wall. Behind it was an oddly shaped piece of glass in a deep frame. In its clouded depths, he saw a reflection stir and forced himself to interrogate the shadowy shape within.

“Danger then?” he ground out.

Danger, the answer came.

“To Arthur?”

Arthur.

Merlin gasped in fear. How could it be? He had left Arthur well and happy, not three moons ago. To be sure, Arthur was not as young as he was, and the old man detested the lines deepening on the face he loved, and the gray spreading through his former pupil’s glistening fair hair. But for a knight in his forties, Arthur was in his prime. His massive frame was almost unscathed by tournaments and battles, his fine face had lost none of its warmth, and his gray eyes were as kindly as ever, and much wiser now.

Arthur–

With another stab to the heart, Merlin remembered the boy Arthur once had been. Never had a fairer youth trodden the earth, except for Uther Pendragon, Arthur’s father, Merlin’s kinsman and dear liege lord. Merlin paused, ambushed by bitter memories again. Well, Uther had long gone down to the Underworld. Gone, all gone, all the Pendragon kings. No grieving or pining would call them back now.

But Arthur–

Merlin turned back to the shadow in the mirror and tore his long
gray locks.

“How can Arthur be in distress?” he wailed. “He has what his heart desired! I found him the child!”

The child? quibbled the image in the glass.

“Yes, yes, child no longer, I know,” Merlin retorted feverishly. “He’s a grown man. But how can the danger lie there? Arthur loves the boy! Why, Mordred is everything to him now–”

But still the smoky shape wavered in the glass. The child, the child, the child–

“Gods above!” Merlin struck his head. Twenty years had passed since the boy Mordred could be called a child. If he was not the child, then it must mean another child to come.

A child of Guenevere’s?

Merlin tore himself from the mirror and flung himself down on his couch. The Queen had indeed been childless for many years. But she was still within her childbearing years. Many a woman in her forties still gave birth, let alone one like Guenevere, tall and well formed, blessed in life and love. Could the child his spirit was warning him of be hers?
Gods above! Around his head the candles danced blue and yellow, mocking his distress. Guenevere, yes, he might have known!
Guenevere!

The old enchanter gave full rein to his spleen. If only Arthur had taken another bride! He could have married a princess of the Christians, a sweet silent thing, tame as a caged bird to his ruling hand. But instead he chose a queen with her own kingdom, one born into the way of women’s rule. Time and again, Guenevere had taken Arthur by surprise. And this would not be the last.

“How long, ye gods, how long?” Merlin wailed, beating his breast. When would he be free of his eternal task of saving the house of Pendragon, keeping it alive till its name was fixed forever in the stars? He had found the lost son, and had given Arthur an heir. Another child now would lead to confusion, and worse. A boy would encourage rebellion and bring rogue lords and disaffected kings to challenge Mordred as the rightful heir.

And a girl–

Worse, much worse. Merlin clasped his head. The Summer Country followed the rule of queens. Guenevere was the last in a line going back to the Great One Herself, the Goddess who had mothered the whole world. To those of the old faith, a girl child would inherit the Mother-right, she would be born to take command. Guenevere’s daughter could prevail over Arthur’s son. And Pendragon then would be swept away, no more than a blink in the long eye of time.

“No!”

Merlin scrambled round his cave, cursing and weeping his fill. All his life, all his many lives, he had fought for Pendragon, only to see his great work threatened every time. Now he must leave his warm, secure refuge and take to the road. He must close up the hidden door in the hillside with strong spells so that no one would disturb his mountain lair. The harsh winds would scour his unprotected flanks and make a tangled mat of his long hair, the iron-gray locks that he groomed and perfumed each day with such care. The wild rain would be his only clothing now, the cold highway his lonely habitation, as he lived at one with the hare and the midnight owl, and no man could tell when he would be home again.

But it would all be for Arthur.

And for Arthur’s child.

The child.

A spark of hope flared in the old man’s wizened heart. Guenevere might bear a child such as Arthur had once been, sturdy and well made, with hair of bright gold and eyes of heartbreaking truth. And perhaps he, old Merlin, might get the child for himself, wrest it from Guenevere as he had taken Arthur from the arms of his mother, Igraine. Then the future of Pendragon would be secure. And he, Merlin, would have the rearing of a new High King–

“Yes!”

The old man leaped to his feet in ecstasy. Throwing back his head, he emitted a soundless hail. The white mule grazing on the mountainside above would hear the cry, he knew, and amble to his door. Call the mule, change into his traveling dress, assemble his few effects–soon, soon, he would be on his way and gone.

Gone–

His old heart revived as he looked ahead. Out in the open air, wearing the woodland green with his wand in his hand, he would be part of the wild wood again, one with the forest creatures who had always taken him as their own. And already he could feel the call of the road. The highways were not as good as they had been when the Roman legions marched away, but they would serve. And no one alive, no, not even the Old Ones who made the world, knew the lesser tracks and hidden greenways as Merlin did.

“On your way, then, old fool!” he chided himself. “Leave your fireside, go!” There was no time to waste if his thumbs were to be believed–if he was to search out the evil now threatening Arthur and come once again to the rescue of the King–if he was to discover what the warning meant and find the child.

Find the child.

Yes, that was what he must do.

With a racing pulse, Merlin began to prepare.

Avalon, Avalon, sacred island, home–

The mist clung to the hillside like a living thing. The muffled figure went carefully downhill, though she had trodden the path a thousand times. When day broke, the towering pines and silver apple trees on the slopes would be easier to see. But now, in the darkness before dawn, she had to trust to her feet, not her eyes, to find the way.

Ahead of her the still waters of the Lake gleamed blackly in the darkness, ageless, impenetrable, pulsing with life. To her right a solitary lantern marked a stone jetty where two boatmen waited with their rough-headed lad, looking up in awe at the veiled figure as she drew near.

The boatmen came to meet her, squinting a silent greeting through thick fringes of black hair. Shyly they handed her into the boat and set off with a will, one rowing, the other poling from the stern, while the boy scrambled nimbly around, casting off and stowing the mooring rope. Then he doused the lantern, and the mist of night took them in its dank embrace.

The low barge drove onward through the dark. The only sounds were the steady plash of the oars and the faraway wailing of a waterfowl. The woman sat in the prow, digesting the rich damp smell of the living water, looking forward without fear. Unwary travelers were often lost on the Lake, circling the watery darkness till the Great One took pity on them and turned them into marsh fowl forever lamenting their plight. But these men knew the waters like the wildfowl themselves.
At the back of the boat a silver spray of water feathered the darkness as the taller of the two boatmen drew up his long pole. His small black eyes were fixed on her, damp but friendly, like a water vole’s. She met his gaze.

“The Lady has sent you?” he asked, in the rough tongue of the Old Ones.

“To the Queen,” she confirmed. Her voice, too, had the rusty cadence of one who rarely spoke.

Crouched in the foot of the boat, the boy stared at her, radiant with desire. “You go to Camelot?”

In her mind’s eye she saw the great castle bright with many flags, its white citadel and slender spires, its towers roofed with gold. She nodded. “Yes.”

On the far shore, another lantern beckoned them to land. There a young girl clad in water pelts stood holding a pony, a dappled mare with huge soft eyes. It was the finest thing the people had, she knew. But for the Lady’s messenger, nothing was too good. She mounted and took up the reins. The little mare turned her head trustingly, asking without words, Where are we to go? The rider reached down to stroke the smooth, warm neck. All the way, came the silent command, all the way, my dear.

One by one the Lake dwellers faded into the breaking dawn. For a moment the traveler sat, taking leave of the still lake of shining water, the green island floating in the mist, rich with apple blossoms and the song of birds.

Farewell, Avalon: the words breathed from her like a charm. Then she turned the horse’s head into the dawn as the silver mist enfolded her like a lover and hid her from sight.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

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Reading Group Guide

1. The Guenevere Trilogy
The pervasive subtext of the Arthurian legend tells the story of Christianity's hostile attack on an older, female-centered religion. In fact, the Christians are as much Guenevere's enemies as is Morgan, if not more so, as they attempt to destroy the succession of queens and usurp Avalon's sacred relics for their own use. How does this underlying battle affect your reading of the story? Does Miles do a good job of setting the historical record straight? Why or why not? What do you make of the Lady?

2. Throughout the Trilogy, we watch the fascinating and terrifying development of Morgan's character: the defenseless, frightened creature sobbing in Arthur's arms; the evil, hypererotic seductress; the havoc-wreaking shape-shifter, who appears at various times as a cat, a raven, a snake, a murderous knight, and a nefarious nun; and the bodiless, tormented spirit hovering in the trees, endlessly torturing Merlin. Are you ever able to sympathize with Morgan? Which is her most frightening guise? Are you able to accept her radical transformation at the end?

3. Greed is a powerful motivating force for many characters in the story. The Abbess Placida covets an authoritative position at Canterbury; Sylvester lusts for Arthur's soul and Avalon's treasures; Malgaunt wants control over Guenevere; Mordred wants to be king; Agravain wants undue power and recognition; Merlin wants his Pendragon bloodline to rule the world. Is Arthur greedy? Is Guenevere? Is greed a punishable offense in the universe of this story?

4. The theme of children separated from their parents seems to run throughout this story: Morgan and Morgause are wrested from Igraine;Arthur is taken from Igraine and Uther; Amir is lost by Guenevere and Arthur; Mordred is removed from Morgan; and Galahad is hidden from Lancelot. How do these separations, some more painful than others, mold each character? Why are they necessary? Do you think this theme symbolizes a larger issue?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great ending to the Trilogy

    This book really ended Guenevere's story wonderfully. Miles really describes her character beautifully and you understand and feel all the heartache, despair, joy and love Guenevere feels.

    Note: slightly anti-christian

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2003

    an engaging read

    Although it was a very interesting retelling of a classic story, the third and final book of the series disappointed me. It seemed that, for all the trials that Guenevere, Arthur and Lancelot had to face, none of them learned from their past experiences. They continually make the same mistakes that they made in the previous two books. I had hoped for the character to be not only older but also wiser. Throughout the series I was hoping for a finial resolution to come at the end but it seemed to be that the ending was no resolution at all, everything was still as problematic as before. The epilog seemed a disjointed afterthought but it did give some conclusion to the book. So, while it was an engaging read I had hoped for a more resolute conclusion. But overall, I greatly enjoyed the series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2003

    A Worthy Ending to the Trilogy

    Some of the quest scenes didn't really seem to have much to do with the story of Guenevere. Aside from that, the story picks up right where The Knight of the Sacred Lake left off and carries you back to the heart of Arthurian legend. The best thing about The Child of the Holy Grail is that it contains the climax not only of one book, but of the whole trilogy. I look forward to reading more of Rosalind Miles' books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2002

    The best of the series

    The entire series was very good, but the 3rd one was the best. If your an Camelot fan and it helps to be a woman, you'll love the entire series. I would highly reccomend this book. Better read the other 2 first though.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2001

    A fantastic ending to the series!

    I have really enjoyed Rosalind Miles' Guenevere books (if you haven't read GUENEVERE: QUEEN OF THE SUMMER COUNTRY and KNIGHT OF THE SACRED LAKE you should) and I was looking forward to this last one. The ending is very different--and much better--than traditional Arthurian retellings. It's not a Hollywood-style happy ending, but it's thought-provoking and very satisfying. I really enjoyed this series and hope Ms. Miles keeps writing!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2001

    The Child of Avalon

    This book is imaginitive, witty, magical and a wonderful read for all who like Guinevre books. Rosalind Miles makes all her charechters alive. I was up for 5 days straight reading this book, you just can't put it down!

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