Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit (a Novel of King Arthur)

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Overview

Gwenhwyfar moves in a world where gods walk among their pagan worshipers, where nebulous visions warn of future perils, and where there are two paths for a woman: the path of the Blessing or the rarer path of the Warrior. Gwenhwyfar chooses the latter, giving up the power that she is born into. Yet the daughter of a King is never truly free to follow her own calling. Acting as the "son" her father never had, when called upon to serve another purpose by the Ladies of the Well, she bows to circumstances to become ...

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Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit (a Novel of King Arthur)

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Overview

Gwenhwyfar moves in a world where gods walk among their pagan worshipers, where nebulous visions warn of future perils, and where there are two paths for a woman: the path of the Blessing or the rarer path of the Warrior. Gwenhwyfar chooses the latter, giving up the power that she is born into. Yet the daughter of a King is never truly free to follow her own calling. Acting as the "son" her father never had, when called upon to serve another purpose by the Ladies of the Well, she bows to circumstances to become Arthur's queen - only to find herself facing temptation and treachery, intrigue and betrayal, but also love and redemption.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Prolific writer Lackey (The Phoenix Endangered) tackles the complex legend of King Arthur's queens in this compelling and heart-wrenching retelling. When warrior-woman Braith announces that the Young Princess Gwen is marked by Epona, the goddess of horses, Gwen's father allows her to train on the warrior path. Although Gwen is deep into training, in the background of her life lay the tales of two other women with the same name-Gwenhwyfar the Golden-both of whom were married to King Arthur. The story of Arthur's kingdom unfolds as Gwen's path as a warrior involves Lancelin, Arthur's closest Companion, and Medraut, the illegitimate and magic-born child of Arthur and his half-sister, Anna Morgause. Lackey places the story in the early dark ages, rather than in the romanticized Camelot of the later Romances. She creates a vibrant world where the old religion and culture of the Celts vies with the invading traditions of the White Christ's followers and Roman influence. Gwen is an independent and formidable woman, determined to follow her dreams, but also dedicated to her duty and to the good of Arthur's kingdom. Though the ending of Arthur's story comes as no surprise, the way that Lackey reweaves old tales to create something new and powerful, with a compelling and sympathetic heroine, is this retelling's strength.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

VOYA - Rachelle Bilz
Setting aside traditional Arthurian tales by Malory, White, and others, Lackey creates an entirely different version of the classic story. Based on an ancient Celtic version of Arthurian legend, this telling begins when Gwenhwyfar (Gwen), the narrator and protagonist, is about ten years old. One of four daughters of King Gawr, who is allied with Arthur, the High King, Gwen is believed to be touched by the Goddess but prefers to pursue the path of a female warrior instead. When she is twenty-seven, Gwen is asked to leave her warrior's life and become Arthur's third wife. Thus the book has three parts—Princess, Warrior, and Queen. Through Gwen's eyes, the reader is immersed in the lives of her family, learns how squires are trained, and gets a realistic look at ancient battle. Gwen also makes evident the importance of the Folk of Annwn, or faerie, to mortals and their travails. Gwen meets Merlin, Lancelin (Lancelot), Morgana, Medraud (Mordred), and other characters from the Arthurian tradition, but their roles and guises are often different in this novel. Packed with magic, battles, and plot twists, this book is an interesting alternative version of Camelot. Vivid narration gives the novel an immediacy and veracity that will hook any fantasy fan. Because this tale provides an unusual twist to the tradition canon, it would best be understood and enjoyed by high school students already familiar with the Arthurian legends. Reviewer: Rachelle Bilz
Library Journal
Using the Welsh legend that suggests Arthur of Britain had three wives, all named Guinevere (or Gwenhwyfar), Lackey pieces together a complex, multitextured story of the rise and fall of King Arthur through the life of the young warrior maiden who became the third Gwenhwyfar. Inspired by her close friend and mentor, Marion Zimmer Bradley, whose seminal Mists of Avalon turned Arthurian legend on its head, the author of the popular "Valdemar" series displays her talent for creating a new and surprising story from familiar material. VERDICT Portraying the complexities of a religious civilization that treads cautiously between the path of the White Christ and the Goddess-based old religion, this retelling of the Arthurian legend should attract widespread fans.
From the Publisher
"The way that Lackey reweaves old tales to create something new and powerful, with a compelling and sympathetic heroine, is this retelling's strength." —-Publishers Weekly Starred Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780756405854
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/6/2009
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Mercedes Lackey is the author or coauthor of close to 100 books, including the Halfblood Chronicles, the Dragon Jousters series, and the bestselling novels of Valdemar.

Anne Flosnik is an accomplished multi-award-winning British actress who has garnered two AudioFile Earphones Awards, an ALA Award, and three Audie Award nominations. Her narration of Little Bee by Chris Cleave was chosen as one of the Best Audiobooks of the Year 2009 by AudioFile magazine.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 17 )
Rating Distribution

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(8)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    brilliant feminist twist to the Arthurian saga

    Gwenhwyfar is the daughter of King Lleeudd, the nominal vassal to King Arthur, who is struggling to unite England while fighting off the Saxon incursion. Her mother follows the old ways while Arthur straddles the line between the pagan past and the followers of Christ. Gwenhwyfar has a younger sister Gwenhwyfach who hates her goes off with Morgana to learn the magic of the Old ways. The good daughter is heavily imbued with power and it is thought she would go study at the school of the Ladies of the Well.

    However Gwen is told she is touched by another Goddess Epora who is worshipped by warriors as the horse goddess. Gwen turns her back on magic and with her father's consent, becomes a warrior. Over time she becomes the head of her father's army respected by the men as their best warrior. For years she has done what makes her happy but when Arthur's second wife dies without an heir, Gwen is the chosen one as his next spouse. Arthur's bastard son kidnaps her and the leader of the Otherworld with the assistance of a priest helps her escape. She must return to a husband who she does not love in a land on the brink of war with her sister Gwenhwyfach amongst the enemy.

    Mercedes Lackey has written her version of King Arthur who is an old man married to a young woman in order to begat his heir. He is far from the hero of legend especially with his treatment of his wives. Gwenhwyfar is a courageous hardened warrior who plans military strategy for her father in a world where Christ is displacing the old ways, she tries to treat both camps fairly although she possesses some of the magic of the Sisters. This is a brilliant feminist twist to the Arthurian saga

    Harriet Klausner

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2009

    Lackey Scores!

    Mercedes Lackey is one of my favorite authors, but I bought this book with trepidation, since I often find historical "adaptations" rather boring. This is a unique look at the Arthurian legend from the perspective of a young and somewhat unconventional woman. I loved it!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Gwenhwyfar -- a much written character

    Gwenhwyfar has been written about in many ways -- but had never seen this take. Good characterization and well-written. The underlying plots helped to concrete the story

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent!

    In the Afterward the author writes that she stumbled across The Three Guieveres when she is researching welsh legends and decides to make a story of it. The idea of there being three Guieneveres just souns so intresting to me and the author made good use of the idea telling a great story of jealousy, love, and treachory.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Arthur with a twist

    A truly excellent read that puts a spin on an old tale. The story is rich in characters and as always once started I just couldn't put it down. This is a must read!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 11, 2010

    King Arthur, again.

    I've been a fan of Mercedes Lackey for a long time (but have actually managed to read few of her more recent books), as well as a fan of Arthurian-age novels since I first read The Once and Future King way back in my teenage years.

    So when I spotted this book in the "new" section of the library, I picked it up to see Lackey's take on an old familiar story.

    She did a great job. Taking the point of view of Guinevere led to a wonderful narrative, and following her from her childhood through Arthur's death was an excellent storytelling strategy.

    There is lots of evil in Lackey's Britain: both in the traditional evil of Mordred and Morgana, as well as within her own family. Life is never easy, despite the honor and righteousness that Gwen consistently demonstrates. That tension truly helps to propel the story, and makes for a great read.

    4/5 stars.

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