Monday, 19 August 2013

Book: Betrothal by Mande Matthews

Book 1 of the Queen's Honor series.

Lady Guinevere is the daughter of a provincial King, and a deceased Druid mother, and her hand in marriage is one of the most sought after in the land. When King Melwas decides that he won't take no for an answer, bringing an army to ensure it, Guinevere's father is forced to make an alliance with the powerful, Arthur Pendragon. But despite her betrothal to Arthur, Guinevere feels a magnetic pull towards the mysterious Sir Lancelot, not helped by the fact that her cousin and Lady-in-Waiting, Elibel, wishes it was herself betrothed to Arthur instead.

Link to Goodreads
Link to amazon

The introductory book to a series that maps the most famous love triangle of all time, yes more famous than Edward-Bella-Jacob, or Peeta-Katniss-Gale, this is the legendary King Arthur-Lady Guinevere-Sir Lancelot story. However it should be noted that this love story is nowhere near as annoying as some young adult love triangles (particularly that of Twilight) and should be taken much more seriously!

It is many years since I read the original legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, but one thing that I can remember clearly from it is the lack of the roles played by any female characters, even the role of Morgaine is played down and she plays an important role in the Arthurian legends. This book almost takes the opposite approach. Told from Guinevere's perspective, it allows you to see a completely different side to her, this isn't some young girl forced into a marriage, this is a young woman making decisions to best protect her people and her family. It is also worth noting that she is the heir to her father's throne and that maternal lines are taken into account at this period in history.

I very much enjoyed having Guinevere's character mapped out further, and I like that she hasn't been written to be a damsel in distress, which would probably be the easiest role to cast her in. Similarly I like the fact that Arthur has his faults in Guinevere's eyes, and from what is written, in my eyes, he does seem rather arrogant!

I think that the way in which Matthews has written the love triangle has a lot of potential for exploration. Lancelot and Arthur seem to be two very different men, with two very different effects on Guin, one fills her with electricity and passion, whilst the other makes her feel safe and calm. Though it is obvious who she will marry, I think that it will be more interesting to see in which direction Matthews wants to take Guin's real feelings, though I guess that will depend partly upon how closely the series will stick to the original legends.

Interestingly, and unlike many Arthurian legends, this book is set after the Romans have abandoned England, and during the Saxon invasions, something that I think will make a big difference going forward into the series, particularly in relation to the fact that Christianity has started to appear in Britain.

There is magic used in this novel, not fabled magic that no one sees, but tangible magic, the sight, shape shifting, weather changing type of magic. Though in some novels this can be a bit over powering, in Betrothal it seems to be exactly in place, after all it does play a part in the original legends too.

I really enjoyed Betrothal, though to me it definitely doesn't seem like it could possibly be the end of the story (even if that story wasn't mapped out!) and I am excited to see what the sequel holds!