I like Kage Baker's Company books (Mendoza, before she's reduced to a simpering, love-sick nonentity, is one of my favorite characters in any series) and I love C.J. Cherryh's Union-Alliance future history (Signy Mallory of ECS Norway ranks as one of the most brilliant characters in SF (IMO) and Downbelow Station is a masterpiece). Sarah Zettel joins that band of authors whose SF I like but whose fantasy leaves me cold. Even in Mary Stewart's Arthurian saga, which I recently finished rereading and had issues with, I was engaged enough in the story and the characters to want to continue reading.
Which is great: it makes me realise how much this version of Gawain is exactly what made me love the character in the first place, and that this retelling of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelles story was what guided me toward reading and loving the Gawain ballads. Its fun, with and without the romance; I love this version of Camelot, which is practical at the same time as romantic. Well, probably to avoid people thinking its pronounced Ryan, but that doesnt mean I like the decision Rhian is a pretty and Welsh name, and it fits much better in the context than Risa.
I seem to change my mind every time I read these books. And the oh-so-perfect women -- Rhian, Guinevere, Jocosa -- or the demonised women -- Pacis, Kerra, Morgaine -- really got to me.
Since I'm hoping that the module on King Arthur will run next year, and reading widely in the tradition helped me with the Robin Hood module, I decided to revisit these books. As I said in my review almost two years ago, I'm not really one for romance books, generally, but these are Arthurian -- which helps a lot, since it's something I'm always interested in -- and they're not exactly bodice-rippers, and I do like Sarah Zettel's writing. There's genuinely a plot alongside the romance -- at least in this first book of the four -- and earlier elements of the tradition are woven into the story, while it's also not quite a carbon copy. I like the portrayal of Guinevere, very much in love with Arthur, and though she's mischievous, she's a good queen. It's interesting how close it sticks to the plot of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which I'm doing a module on at the moment. It's nice that there's an overarching plot to these four romances, with the figure of Morgaine, about whom we learn little in this book. Rhian for Gawain (Ragnelle), Elen for Geraint, Lynet for Gareth (Lynette), and Laurel for Agravain (Lyonesse). Mordred also plays a part, the son of Morgaine and Arthur, but ultimately doesn't seem that important to the plot. All the men have to do stuff to bring their ladies back after the lady's bold and noble sacrifice -- Gawain stands up to the test of the Green Knight, Geraint kills something important while fearing the worst, Gareth gives his life to Lynet to bring her back from the sea, Agravain uses Excalibur's scabbard to bring Laurel back from the sea.
This novel mix the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Wedding of Dame Ragnelle and Sir Gawain, in a new story where the author narrates the love of Rhian and Gawain. (view spoiler) Morgana, the sorcerer Euberacon and the witch Kerra are the three villains of the novel, along with the mysterious old god called Green Knight, which is more of a neutral figure than a villain. The tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was adapted beautifully, as a puzzle in the novel even if somehow the pace felt different from the rest of the novel, and a bit... First of all, the sorcerer turning Rhian into an ugly old woman didn't make much sense to me (/that/ seemed forced) and secondly, the author decided to change the answer to what all women want.
The sorcerer pursues, but to everyone's amazement Sir Gawain happens upon them and rescues Risa. Gawain offers his protection to Risa, and as they ride together toward Camelot the seeds of love are planted in them. But even as they fall in love, they are troubled by marauding bands of Saxons, sorcerous machinations, and Gawain's tendency to save any damsel he comes across.
It follows a nineteen-year-old young woman named Risa (it was nice to get a slightly older heroine for once) and Sir Gawainyes, the same one from the King Arthur stories! A romance blossoms between her and the dashing Gawain (the somewhat roguish knight has to learn to be loyal to one woman by the end); you get to meet Arthur and Guinevere (and I really liked this representation of them); and there's a really cool twist at the end, hearkening back to the old story "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight"!
The story of Risa of the Morelands and Sir Gawain of the Round Table is filled with Celtic mythology and Arthurian Legend. From reading this, I would be interested in Gawain's brother Agravain's story, but in doing some research his is the fourth book, and I didn't like this enough to slog through another two 400+ page novels to get to that.
Lady Risa is promised at birth to the evil sorcerer, Euberacon, who is intent on dethroning King Arthur.
Her latest novel, Dust Girl, was named as one of the best young adult books of the year by both Kirkus Reviews and the American Library Association.