Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend
Outskirts Press (2009)
Guinevere Comes Alive as Thirteen-Year Old Prospective Bride in Children’s Novel
There is no end to the number of novels being written about the Arthurian legend, and exciting new children’s author Cheryl Carpinello can now be added to the number of writers recreating the legend for new generations with “Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend.” Carpinello has been teaching the Arthurian legend to her high school English classes for nearly twenty years, and now that interest has resulted in her first novel about a young Guinevere, on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, when her life is about to change forever.
The reader is first introduced to Guinevere when she is in the forest hunting rabbits with her seven-year old friend Cedwyn. She is not quite as ladylike as a princess should be, considering she is the daughter of King Leodegrance. Nor is she happy that as her thirteenth birthday approaches, she will be expected to take on a more adult role in the castle and prepare for possible marriage.
Guinevere finds that things get a bit easier when the wizard Merlyn arrives to participate in her birthday celebrations. But King Arthur also comes, and through her father, he makes a proposal she is uncertain is in her best interests.
After a fantastic birthday party and a couple of encounters with a magical beast in the forest, Guinevere starts to accept what her role will be in the future. She also realizes she still has some time left to enjoy her youth, and she is happy that her adult role will allow her young friend, Cedwyn, eventually to fulfill his own dream of becoming a squire and then a knight.
“Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend” is not a long or complicated story. It is just over one hundred pages, but it is a pleasant reading experience. It does not try to accomplish too much, but rather it is one of those rare books where the author understood that less is more and fully delivers in making each page valuable and interesting. The sighting of a unicorn in the book is an example of this—the delicate handling of the scene leaves the reader as much in awe as Guinevere over the magical beast. Similarly, the illustrations are not elaborate but simple drawings, yet they are magical for what they leave to the reader’s imagination. While the influence of T.H. White can be felt in the novel’s pages, and perhaps a bit of Disney’s film version The Sword in the Stone in the illustrations, Carpinello manages to create a unique and original version of Guinevere’s childhood.
Carpinello is obviously enthusiastic about sharing the Arthurian legend with young readers. Her biography states that “The focus in her writing is on reluctant readers.” I felt she provided enough magic and detail to appeal to readers of all ages, especially in her realistic portrait of Guinevere coming of age. I also appreciated her short, educational section at the book’s end, including a discussion of the King Arthur Legend, a glossary, discussion questions, and some additional reading. The book is suitable for readers, depending on their reluctance or proclivity to read, from about third grade through middle school, although as an adult, I enjoyed the book thoroughly.
Well done all around, “Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend” is a novel sure to win readers’ hearts and add to the many fans of the King Arthur legend. Perhaps best of all, Carpinello is now busy writing “The King’s Ransom,” the first in her prospective “Young Knights of the Round Table” series. To learn more about Cheryl Carpinello and her books visit www.beyondtodayeducator.com
Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com