Friday, 27 September 2013

Book: Quest by Mande Matthews

Quest is book 2 in the Queen's Honor series, and the sequel to Betrothal (the review of which you can read by clicking on the link). I received a copy of Quest from the author in exchange for my review.

Picking up from the end of Betrothal, Guinevere leaves her childhood home and kingdom to make her way to Camelot, along with her cousin and best friend, Elibel. Having ridden ahead, Arthur left his best knight, Sir Lancelot, to accompany and defend Guinevere on her journey, little suspecting the feelings that are growing between his future Queen and his knight. Despite knowing that she shouldn't, Guinevere ends up close to Lancelot, and kissing him, sealing her heart against Arthur. But Morgaine see the king that her brother would become without Guinevere's influence, and knowing Guinevere's secret, she uses it to secure the marriage and seal Guinevere's fate.

Link to Goodreads
Link to amazon

As with Betrothal, I really enjoyed the second installment of the Queen's Honor series, particularly as it tells the well known legend from a female perspective, which often seems to be overlooked (something which I suspect is actually something that is overlooked by the majority of legends and stories based on them.) Quest, and before it Betrothal, are different to the legends in several ways, making both books interesting and engaging reads.

The first major difference would be Arthur's character, in most Arthurian stories and legends, Arthur is almost perfect in every way, which is far from the case in Quest. Though Guinevere accepts that he is attractive, she doesn't think he is overwhelmingly so, and in fact seems a bit indifferent to his physical appearance and presence. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, far from it, in fact I believe that this makes Guinevere more real, after all in real life you can accept that someone is good looking but not actually find them attractive in that way. The whole paragraph above, and its focus on appearance has probably just made me appear a little shallow, but for Guinevere (and for me I promise!) it isn't just about the looks, she also saw a lot of negative traits as Arthur's predominant ones, meaning that her hope to fall in love with the man that she is forced to marry, quickly fall apart.

In a related note, I was reading some of the other reviews that have been given of Quest and noticed that some people were basically saying that Guinevere was a simpering idiot and didn't deserve such a kind hearted and loving man as Arthur. Now, those people are entitled to their opinion, but in mine, Quest didn't come across like this. Some of it is likely Guinevere's love for Lancelot clouding her view, which is what happens when people are in love, but there are things that can't be clouded that Arthur does that aren't all that perfect too, such as cheat on Guinevere (I know she cheats on him too but in her defense he chose the marriage between them not her), and order the death of a creature that Guinevere wanted to protect. He's not all perfect, that's all I'm saying! Which is good, the perfect Arthur tends to be too perfect, just not real at all.

But it isn't as if Guinevere actually minds Arthur's faults, particularly as the relationship between Guinevere and Lancelot has stepped up from looks to kisses and declarations. The way that this progression is done makes it seem like a natural, but completely undeniable, attraction, the kind that only happens to the lucky few. It would also seem that both Guinevere and Lancelot agonise over their fledgling relationship, and it intrigues me and makes me wonder where it will go in future novellas.

As well as Arthur being less than perfect, another major difference between Quest and other Arthurian legends and stories, is the strength of Guinevere. Considering that Guinevere was Queen, and in all the legends she was brave enough to have an affair with Sir Lancelot, it seems strange that she is often portrayed as weak, vulnerable and in need of rescue. I can assure you that that is not the Guinevere in Quest. She may not be running around and having sword fights or the like, but she does have the courage, and the conviction, to stand up to the traditionally stronger characters, and to stand up for her own beliefs and convictions. As someone who appreciates strong, female, lead characters, I found this portrayal of Guinevere be a refreshing and enjoyable read.

As with Betrothal, I enjoyed Quest, and would recommend it, and I am excited to see where the Queen's Honor series will go in the future.