Debra Kemp took the idea of King Arthur’s daughter to new lengths by beginning her The House of Pendragon series. So far, two of the three novels of the series have been published, The Firebrand (2003) and The Recruit (2007).
While Vera Chapman’s King Arthur’s Daughter first covered this territory, Kemp is far more detailed in her imagining of a daughter for Arthur. Some of the first novel’s suspense is lost because we know from the back cover, and the frame of the novel, that Lin is King Arthur’s daughter, although she does not know this herself. Lin was kidnapped at an early age by Arthur’s sister, Morgause, and it was believed the boat she was on, enroute to the Orkney Isles, had sunk and she had died. Actually, Morgause had taken her to Orkney and made her a slave. Lin grows up believing she is the daughter of a slave woman, and except for the kindness of her foster-brother David and a few of the other slaves, she knows a life of relentless hardship. When Prince Modred decides specifically to torture her and make her his plaything, her life becomes nearly unbearable, yet Lin is of iron nature, so she refuses to give up until finally she learns the truth of her heritage.
Debra Kemp continues the story of Princess Lin in The Recruit. Here Lin comes to Camelot to find she is expected by her mother, Guinevere, to act like the perfect lady, learning to sew, and to prepare herself for a dynastic marriage that will provide stability to the kingdom. Lin will have none of it. After some initial struggles with her mother, Lin convinces her father, King Arthur, to let her join the army. She becomes “the recruit” and proves herself capable of serving as well as any man in the army. From barroom brawls to guard duty, Lin continually proves herself as worthy of her sire.
What I actually find most interesting about these two novels is the frame that surrounds them. Kemp begins the first novel with Lin speaking just after the Battle of Camlann and the death of Arthur and Modred. There is no prophecy here that Arthur will come again, but rather Lin pretends Arthur will return to keep up the hope of the people. Then the book shifts forward a number of years; Lin is married to Gaheris and has been raising her family, not revealing to her own children that they are the Pendragon’s grandchildren. She has journeyed back to Camelot now and is considering taking back reign over the kingdom. It is then that she tells her story to her oldest son, technically named Arthur, but called Bear by the family. She tells her son of her days as a slave in Orkney and how she found out she is King Arthur’s daughter. The frame also makes it clear that Lin will become a great warrior.
Kemp is currently working on the third and final volume of the series. I am curious whether, besides depicting the events that lead up to the fall of Camelot and the Battle of Camlann, Kemp will show Lin’s life in more detail after the Battle of Camlann—will Lin establish a united kingdom again? Will the story of Camelot have a new ending?
For more about Debra Kemp and The House of Pendragon series, visit her on Facebook and her website at: http://www.telltalepress.com/debrakemp.html
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Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com