Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Review - Kingdom of Summer by Gillian Bradshaw

First published in 1981 and now re-released by Sourcebooks Landmark, Gillian Bradshaw’s Kingdom of Summer continues the tale of Gwalchmai ap Lot, whose story began in Hawk of May.  This nephew of the legendary King Arthur, given the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his mother, the evil sorceress Morgawse, chose instead of become a warrior against the Darkness.  Hawk of May chronicles his youth into young adulthood.  Kingdom of Summer picks up in his mid-20s, when he has established himself as a renowned servant of King Arthur, achieving almost legendary status, both in story and in song.  While he doesn’t practice the evil sorcery of his mother, he still retains his otherworldly horse Ceincaled and the magical sword Caledvwlch.

Through a series of flashback storytelling, we learn in recent years, Lord Gwalchmai has not only been an emissary for King Arthur, but he also managed to fall in love with the daughter of an enemy.  His love for the beautiful Elidan cannot eclipse his devotion to Arthur, and ultimately this leads to conflict, broken promises and the estrangement of two lovers.  Gwalchmai begins a quest to find Elidan in hopes of at least obtaining forgiveness, if not complete reconciliation. 

Along the way he meets a young farmer named Rhys, who decides to join him as a servant in his quest to find Elidan and ultimately to return to Arthur’s fortress Camlann.  He shares Gwalchmai’s adventurous spirit and Christian desire to serve the Light in a world frequently tormented by Morgawse’s Darkness.  Together they embark on a perilous journey to combat evil and to bring peace to the guilt-ridden, lovesick Lord’s heart.  The majority of the novel is told from Rhys’ point of view and in his voice.

Kingdom of Summer is a fine follow up to Hawk of May.  The second in a trilogy of titles, Summer continues the tale of Gwalchmai ap Lot, but with the fresh new voice of his servant Rhys ap Sion. Together they embark on quite a journey, facing both spiritual and physical challenges.  As I mentioned in my review of Hawk of May, Bradshaw’s writing doesn’t necessarily fall within the Christian genre, but the faith is held up as a good and righteous power within the story, having a Light-driven magic of its own.  Battles and other graphic content are kept at a reasonable level—we know that Gwalchmai is a warrior, but we aren’t subjected to scene after scene of bloodletting and slaughter.

Summer does very little back selling of the original title, so it would be to the reader’s benefit to enjoy Hawk of May before starting this.  The story also concludes in a somewhat open-ended way, setting the stage for the final installment of the Down the Long Wind trilogy, In Winter’s Shadow. As I’ve enjoyed Gillian Bradshaw’s work thus far, I’m looking forward to Shadow and how things develop with the characters.  Kingdom of Summer was filled with adventure, magic and a bit of romance, and if Shadow continues in the same vein, I’m sure to be in for another delightful read.

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Calico Casting Call – For the Movie in My Head
(With the appropriate age and look for their characters)

Gwalchmai ap Lot – Karl Urban
Rhys ap Sion – Rupert Grint
King Arthur – Anthony Head
Morgawse – Monica Bellucci
Medraut – Sean Bean
Lot mac Cormac – John Noble
Elidan – Miranda Otto
Eivlin – Dakota Fanning
Teleri – Glenn Close

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