Friday, January 13, 2012

Guinevere, The Legend in Autumn by Persia Woolley

Persia Woolley’s Guinevere trilogy is a fascinating look into the Arthurian legend through the eyes of his (vastly misunderstood) queen, Guinevere. In the third and final novel in the trilogy, Guinevere, The Legend in Autumn, Guinevere is waiting for her execution by burning at the stake. As her final evening stretches out before her, Guinevere reminisces with a knight of the round table, Gareth, about the last years of her rein with King Arthur.

Those final years were mostly good for Guinevere and Arthur, although items were set into motion that would eventually bring down Camelot. Guinevere and Arthur shared a partnership and friendship that together helped them to lead a nation. Guinevere’s passions were stirred by her champion, Lancelot, but he was Arthur’s best friend and the two shared a chaste, but passionate love. Torn by his love for Guinevere, Lancelot sought solace in Christianity and by leaving Camelot to be away from his temptation.

Unable to have children of her own, Guinevere helped to raise her husband Arthur’s son, Mordred, and thought of him as her own. Called the son of Lot by everyone, Mordred did not know his true parentage until later in his teenage years. Discovering he was the unwanted child of an incestuous relationship between his mother Morgause (Arthur’s half-sister) and Arthur, was more than a bit shocking to Mordred. More than that, Mordred was hurt that Arthur would never acknowledge him or at least treat him as a son. Mordred helped to ease relations with the Saxons that had invaded and settled on England’s shores, but he couldn’t help wanting more than what his lot in life had given him.

Several of the standard Arthurian legends are in Guinevere, The Legend in Autumn. Sir Gawain goes in search of the Green Knight. And of course all of the members of the round table go on the hunt for the Holy Grail. I really liked this section of the novel. It presented the grail as meaning something different to each member of the round table depending on their faith and stage in life. It was very interesting. It was also shown as something that ultimately helped to bring down the round table by splintering and killing off many of the loyal members.

I first read Persia Woolley’s Guinevere trilogy as a teenager and I have vastly enjoyed reading again now that I’m in my thirties. I must admit that it is as good as or even better than I remember it from my youth. I love reading tales of Arthurian legend and this trilogy is among the best I’ve read. I’ll admit that I even love it better than my other favorites, Mary Stewart’s Merlin series and The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

I love that the series tells the legend from Guinevere’s point of view. So many other tales have Guinevere as a weak willed and even a trampy woman. I greatly approve of her love for Arthur and Lancelot being defined in different ways. Having Lancelot and Guinevere as chaste lovers, is very passionate, and intriguing. Especially at the very exciting end of this novel that I can’t explain without giving away the plot.

My other favorite part of the series is that Persia Woolley did so much research to put the legends into historical context, and to find the “reality behind the myth.” The books take place after the fall of the Roman empire with Britain at threat from the invading hordes of Saxons. This is my first book in the 2012 Historical Fiction Challenge.

Book Source: Review Copy from Sourcebooks. Thank-you!!


  1. I love Arthurian tales and was not aware of this trilogy. I have read the Mary Stewart books long ago and if this is similar, I'll have to get my hands on this series.

    Thanks for the review!

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  3. This book/series sounds really good! I am not a HUGE Arthurian legend fan but this one does sound intriguing and worth a read through!! Thanks for sharing this awesome review with us! :)