Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Morgan le Fay’ Category

Camelot’s Queen is Nicole Evelina’s new novel and the second in the Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy. Evelina’s first novel, Daughter of Destiny, introduced readers to a new version of Guinevere, focusing on a part of the story often ignored—her childhood and youth in the years prior to her meeting and marrying King Arthur. Evelina gave us many surprises in that novel, from a childhood spent in Avalon to a lover no one would have expected. Consequently, when Guinevere’s marriage to Arthur is arranged, she is not happy to be parted from the man she truly loves.

Camelot's Queen, the second book in Nicole Evelina's trilogy about Guinevere, covers the years of Guinevere's marriage to King Arthur.

Camelot’s Queen, the second book in Nicole Evelina’s trilogy about Guinevere, covers the years of Guinevere’s marriage to King Arthur.

Camelot’s Queen picks up with Guinevere’s wedding to King Arthur and covers most of her adult life. Never fear, she still has her love affair with Lancelot, is accused of treason, nearly burnt at the stake, and at the end of the novel, is rescued by Lancelot, leaving the door open for what will happen in the upcoming third novel. However, while Camelot’s Queen focuses on the more mainstream events of Guinevere’s life, Evelina clearly makes it her own, not only in her depiction of a feisty, sometimes hot-headed and selfish, sometimes wise, Queen Guinevere, but also in how she rewrites traditional parts of the legend such as Guinevere’s abduction by Malegant and the Quest for the Holy Grail. Evelina also creates new characters such as Guinevere’s new and unwanted female bodyguard, and she realigns other characters’ roles, especially that of Morgan, who is Guinevere’s rival.

For the most part, this is a realistic novel, although Evelina uses Celtic cultural influences in the story with just a touch of magic to them; for example, Guinevere’s training in Avalon allows her to have some small control over the elements, such as being able to create clouds and make it rain.

Evelina also gives a new spin on the conflict between Christianity and Paganism that has become mainstream to the legend in recent years, but no one would have suspected that Morgan, of all people, would convert to Christianity while Guinevere holds out against it—how that situation develops is quite stunning and to explain it here would be to take away pleasure from the reader. I will say, however, that I found this element the most interesting theme in the novel, and I was especially impressed by how Evelina treats the Holy Grail in relation to it.

An Author’s Note at the end gives some of Evelina’s reasons for the changes she made to the traditional storyline as well as insight into her extensive research into the Arthurian period, including visits to Arthurian places and consulting with Arthurian scholar Geoffrey Ashe.

As an Arthurian novelist myself, I found Evelina’s interpretations sometimes surprising, but usually dramatically effective. Her choices were certainly interesting, and not being a purist—why read Arthurian modern fiction if you are?—I was often delighted with her choices and her imaginative realigning of many Arthurian characters and themes. I especially found the family lineages and characters’ relationships interesting because Evelina uses them to explain some often confusing aspects of the legend, including the connections between the different nobles and royals of Cornwall, as well as Arthur’s own family tree and his relationship to Morgan. The book also moves at a quick pace—in a few places a little too quick I thought where I would have liked more details—but Evelina provides plenty of details in the key scenes, and in some of the places where I wanted more, I suspect Evelina intentionally held back to build up suspense for the third book in the series, Mistress of Legend, which will be published in 2017.

Anyone who loves strong female protagonists—or let’s face it, the Arthurian legend—will find plenty to enjoy, ponder, and discuss in Camelot’s Queen.

For more information about Nicole Evelina and Camelot’s Queen, visit her website at www.NicoleEvelina.com

______________________________________________________________________

Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, and the upcoming Lilith’s Love and Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly work King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. You can learn more about him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

Read Full Post »

Today, I will be interviewing Arthurian novelist Nicole Evelina about her new novel, Daughter of Destiny: Guinevere’s Tale, Book One. (You can read my review of her novel at https://childrenofarthur.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/guinevere-gets-her-say-in-new-novel-daughter-of-destiny-by-nicole-evelina/)

Nicole Evelina, author of "Daughter of Destiny" about Guinevere's early years before she married King Arthur.

Nicole Evelina, author of “Daughter of Destiny” about Guinevere’s early years before she married King Arthur.

Nicole Evelina has spent the last fifteen years researching the Arthurian legend, Celtic Britain, and the various peoples, cultures, and religious practices that shaped the country after the withdrawal of Rome. She is a proud member of the Historical Novel Society.

Nicole holds a B.A. in English and an M.A. in media communications, as well as accreditation from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), a distinction that tests writing and communications skill, and is held by only 8,000 people worldwide.

Her new novel Daughter of Destiny was published on January 1, 2016, and it is the first in a trilogy of novels she has planned. Her goal is to create a strong female protagonist in the person of Guinevere in the series.

Tyler: Welcome, Nicole. I interviewed you about three years ago about your novel series and interest in the Arthurian legend. Back then you were trying to find a publisher, so it’s been a long journey. How did publication come about and how does it feel now to be a published author?

Nicole: Hi Tyler! Thanks for having me on your blog again. Yes, it has been a long journey. I started out going the traditional publication route and got SOOOOO close three times (twice at Penguin), but it ultimately didn’t end up working out for this book. In the meantime, the self-publishing market exploded. I met more and more people who were doing it, and after a lot of study and serious consideration, I decided to self-publish. I created my own publishing imprint and own my own business now. My first product was Daughter of Destiny.

Tyler: Tell us how you came up with the idea to write Daughter of Destiny and why you think it stands out from other Arthurian novels?

Nicole: When I was in college, I read The Mists of Avalon, and I loved the book, but hated Marion Zimmer Bradley’s portrayal of Guinevere. So I sought out other books about the character. I found Parke Godwin’s Beloved Exile, which covers Guinevere’s life after King Arthur’s death. That made me wonder what her life was like before and after him. You didn’t hear too much about that. Then she came into my head and told me she wanted me to tell her whole life story, before Arthur, with him and after. The rest is history.

I think it stands out because I’ve done things with Guinevere that few, if any, other authors have done. For example, my Guinevere is a priestess of Avalon and that is how she meets Morgan. Their rivalry begins long before Arthur enters the picture. So that means he’s part of it, but definitely not all. Plus, I have made Guinevere’s first love someone I don’t think anyone else has ever done, but there is a mythological connection, a reason that I chose this person.

Tyler: I definitely want to know more about Guinevere’s first love, but first, you’ve said you were influenced by Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon in writing the novel, but obviously, you were reacting to her rather than just imitating her. What do you think is or was valuable about Bradley’s novel and what is its place in Arthurian literature?

Nicole: For me, it was the emphasis on the female characters and telling their story. All throughout history, we’ve gotten the male perspective. Ms. Bradley turned that on its head. I also think she was groundbreaking in connecting the Arthurian story to Wicca/neopagan worship. While that’s not historically accurate, it spoke to (and continues to speak to) a lot of people in a way that they need, myself included.

Tyler: In the novel, you have Guinevere go to Avalon while young to study there. Why did you choose to have Avalon play a key part in her background?

Nicole: It was natural to me because I knew I wanted to explore the tension between Christianity and paganism at that point in history and that I wanted Guinevere to be pagan. Having Avalon be the female center of Druidism (while Merlin had the male center elsewhere) was a natural outgrowth of my love of The Mists of Avalon. It also gave me a way to have Guinevere grow up with a group of strong-willed, powerful women who would shape who she becomes.

Tyler: Okay. Now back to that love interest question. I was really surprised that Guinevere’s love interest in the novel is Aggrivaine. How did you come to that decision?

Nicole: Well, I knew I wanted her to have a first love before Arthur. Most authors have chosen to make it Lancelot, but I wanted to go in a different direction. The more I explored the legend, I realized in some versions, Mordred isn’t alone in confronting and exposing Lancelot and Guinevere. Sometimes Aggrivane is with him. I started wondering why. What was Aggrivane’s motivation for such a betrayal? Then it hit me. If he and Guinevere were together first, he would naturally want revenge. He would be wondering why, if she was going to have an affair, it wasn’t with him. So I kind of wrote the relationship backwards, from the endgame. Also, because Lot is Aggrivane’s father and Lot’s kingdom of Lothian is in the Votadini lands (where Guinevere’s mom is from), it was helpful for Guinevere to already have a connection to their family. None of it was an accident.

Tyler: That makes perfect sense, Nicole. Aggrivane is often Mordred’s accomplice in Camelot’s fall. That’s brilliant reasoning and not really so surprising then when you think about it. But there are some other surprises about the characters and their relationships. For example, Arthur’s sister is named Ana, and there’s no sister named Morgan le Fay or Morgause? Why did you make those changes?

"Daughter of Destiny" the first book in a trilogy about Guinevere.

“Daughter of Destiny” the first book in a trilogy about Guinevere.

Nicole: I feel like Ana has gotten lost in all the modern attention to Morgause and Morgan le Fay, both of whom tend to be evil characters. Although Ana is a small character, I wanted to give her back what I feel is her rightful place. In my world, she’s a strong, intelligent queen. Morgan has her own role to play, which you’ll find out in the second book.

Tyler: Of course, there is a Morgan in the novel, and she is a rival to Guinevere. Do you see Morgan as a villain? Is that a reaction against her protagonist role in Mists?

Nicole: Yes, Morgan is the villain. But she has her reasons. She doesn’t know who her parents are and so, as Guinevere observes, Morgan has no tribe, no family outside of Avalon. Therefore, Morgan must do everything she can to secure her place as the darling of Avalon, a role Guinevere also covets. It’s the only way Morgan can survive. Later on, she’s still fighting the same fight, just out in the world, trying to connive her way into survival, and she hopes, eventually to triumph over Guinevere who has been a thorn in her side from an early age.

I don’t think my Morgan was a reaction to Mists, at least not consciously. I’ve always viewed Morgan as a villain.

Tyler: I don’t want to give away too much of the novel, but it’s obvious that Arthur will show up in Guinevere’s life since he’s always her husband in the legend. In this novel, however, he’s a pretty minor character. Did you intentionally hold him off until the end of the book?

Nicole: Yes. This book is meant to show you Guinevere’s life before Arthur becomes a major part in it, to show that she was a person with friends and family, hopes and dreams before queenship ever entered her mind. He becomes a major character in the second book.

Tyler: I’ve seen a lot of Arthurian novelists, especially those who write fantasy, recently be criticized for not trying to create a perfectly historical Arthurian period. How important do you feel it is to create a historical Arthur rather than just a fantasy one, and do you think it matters whether Arthur was historical or not?

Nicole: I don’t think it matters. Personally, I think he did exist on some level, but until we uncover his diary, we just won’t know who that historical Arthur is. History and archeology are changing every single day with new discoveries (for example, they just recently announced that Christians lived at Glastonbury at least 200 years earlier than previously thought) so in some ways, it’s impossible to ever create a historical Arthur. I think you do what you can with the research you can find and as a novelist, are allowed to make up the rest. That’s what separates us from the historians. How historically accurate your world is will depend on your intent—are you trying to show what it really was like in a certain time period? Or are you more interested in the fantasy side? My personal take was a bit of both.

Tyler: I know you did a lot of research on the legend in writing your novels. Will you share with us a little of the experiences you had in doing research and what you learned that most surprised you or shaped your story?

Nicole: Oh gosh. Yes, I did lots of research. There’s a whole page on my website dedicated to it: http://nicoleevelina.com/the-books/guineveres-tale/daughter-of-destiny-book-1/guinevere-trilogy/. Book research was the majority of what I did. It was very interesting to see the number of different theories that were out there on King Arthur. It’s almost like no two people can agree.

I was honored to be able to meet one of my source authors, Geoffrey Ashe, while I was in England as part of an Arthurian legend tour. To get to hear his theories and pick his brain in person was such an honor. As it turned out, the man who led the tour, Jamie George, helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon. I had no idea until I was over there and got to talking. It is such a small world! Then, later on once the first book was finished, I was able to secure an endorsement from John Matthews. He and his wife Caitlin were two of my major sources of research and I respect them both so very much. It was a dream come true to have his name grace the back cover of my book.

I think what surprised me most was what I learned about the dizzying subject of Celtic (Brehon) law. I’ve tried to incorporate a little of it into my books because it’s one of the reasons why Celtic women were so powerful. They had so many more rights than their counterparts around the world. I wish I was enough of an expert in it to speak intelligently about it, but it is just so complex.

Tyler: I’ve traveled and done research as well, and I remember when I visited Glastonbury I felt overcome by a source of energy or power there I had never experienced anywhere else. I just felt so happy and full of energy there. Did you have any experiences like that where you felt connected to an Arthurian landscape or did you just have a favorite place you visited that really helped your imagination come to life for your book?

Nicole: Glastonbury was special to me on a personal level, but not in connection to these books. I’m hoping to get back there this September when I’m in England again. Actually, the place I felt most connected with has nothing to do with these books, but is a main setting for a future dual-time period novel.

As far as Arthurian sites, I loved getting to see Cadbury castle, which some say was Guinevere’s home, or possibly a site for Camelot. I use it as Arthur’s southern power base in the second and third books of this series.

Tyler: The novel has been out a little over a month now. What kinds of responses have you received from readers, and have you been surprised by any of them?

Nicole: I’m surprised by the number of great reviews it’s gotten! Some people really get what I was going for. And when they get it, they get it, as in ALL in. As is to be expected, some people don’t, but that just means they weren’t my intended audience to begin with. One thing I find surprising is that so far, the people who didn’t like Daughter of Destiny have still expressed interest in reading the second book. That’s going to be hard to watch because I have this fear the second book will be very divisive because it’s so dark and deals with heavy subject matter.

Tyler: When can we expect the next two books in the series to be published and what kinds of glimpses can you give us into what will happen to Guinevere in them?

Nicole: The second book, Camelot’s Queen, comes out April 12. That one covers Guinevere’s life with Arthur, her role as a battle queen, her affair with Lancelot and the discovery of the Holy Grail. I can tell you Morgan has a role you won’t see coming, and if you hated Father Marius in the first book, you will loathe him in the second. It’s a much darker book than the first one, covering the subjects of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, all of which have their origin in the legends, and I don’t feel can be ignored simply because they are distasteful. I hope readers see that I have tried to address these issues with respect and give them context so they are not just a plot device, but truly affect the characters’ lives and the decisions they make.

The third book, Mistress of Legend, is tentatively scheduled for late 2016/early 2017. That book begins with the fall of Camelot and the battle of Camlann and then covers Guinevere’s life after Arthur dies. There is a convent involved, but I can promise you she doesn’t live out her days there in penance. She is her mother’s daughter and born to lead, so you will see a strong woman to the end of her days. I have a draft written. I know how it ends. (I’ve known from the beginning.) But the middle of the story is currently missing and I’m not happy with the opening, so I have some work to do.

I tend to think of the three books like this: the first books shows her as a priestess, the second as a queen and third as a warrior.

Tyler: I can’t wait for that third book especially, Nicole. It all sounds fascinating. Thank you for joining me today, Nicole. Before we go, will you tell us about your website and what additional information we can find there about Daughter of Destiny?

Nicole: Thank you again for having me, Tyler. It’s always such a pleasure to talk with you because you understand the legends so well.

My website is http://nicoleevelina.com. In addition to learning about the book, you’ll find my research, a pronunciation guide for the character and place names, and the map that’s in the book. I’ve also got a fan section that contains my playlist, research photos, and soon will have deleted scenes and an “If List” page that lets you vote on who should play the characters if a movie was ever made. I need to link my Pinterest boards for the books up to the site as well. Also, if you’re in a book club, there’s a discussion guide, period-appropriate food, drink and music suggestions and you can contact me if you want me to speak or visit your club in person or via Skype.

Tyler: Thanks again, Nicole. It’s been a pleasure.

Read Full Post »

Did you know that King Arthur’s sister Morgan le Fay was the lover of Ogier the Dane, one of Charlemagne’s great knights? In fact, they knew each other since Ogier the Dane was first born. In my new novel Ogier’s Prayer: The Children of Arthur, Book Three, I explore their relationship.

Following is the opening scene in the novel where Ogier begins to tell his story, beginning with his first meeting the legendary woman who would be a guiding influence throughout his life.

From Ogier’s Prayer:

The first remarkable occurrence of my life took place when I was just days old, during my initial presentation to the court; it was not the day of my baptism or christening as the Christians would call it—for my parents and all of Denmark in those days were followers of the old Gods, Odin and Thor and all those who dwelled in the halls of Asgaard—but it was the day I was named and presented to the court as my father’s son and heir.

Although it was a great day of celebration, considering that an heir had been born to the king, the presentation was not expected to be anything beyond the ordinary for such events. But it soon became an extraordinary day because of a visit from unexpected guests. I remember little of the early years of my life, but that day, as I lay in my mother’s arms, facing the court, I witnessed such marvelous events that even a mere babe could not forget them.

From the Red Romance Book by Andrew Lang. The caption reads "How the Fairies Came to See Ogier the Dane." Ogier is a major character in the Charlemagne legends and beloved of Morgan le Fay. He is the major character in my upcoming novel "Ogier's Prayer: The Children of Arthur, Book Three.

From the Red Romance Book by Andrew Lang. The caption reads “How the Fairies Came to See Ogier the Dane.” Ogier is a major character in the Charlemagne legends and beloved of Morgan le Fay. He is the major character in my upcoming novel “Ogier’s Prayer: The Children of Arthur, Book Three.

My memory of that day begins just as my father presented me to the court, and the nobles and his other liegemen had formed a line to pay me homage and to swear to serve my father, the king, and his newborn heir. In the midst of this ceremony, first faintly, then growing ever louder, came the sweetest music that mortals ever heard. It seemed to originate from right outside the castle wall, but then it soared, as if carried on the wind, through the open window, and into the throne room. Nobody knew from whence such bewitching sounds could come, but many murmured how the music was so heavenly that they could only think we were to be visited by an angel.

But that misperception was soon corrected when through the window floated six female fairies. Each bore in her hands a garland of flowers and rich gifts of gold, gems, and other priceless valuables. I will never forget, from where I sat upon my mother’s lap, the sight of these lovely creatures. They were so beautiful and so aglow with light that the courtiers later admitted to feeling great awe and fear at the sight of them, but I only laughed with glee to see their radiant beauty, and I felt a great happiness descend upon me.

My mother, however, seemed afraid of the fairies’ presence, for I could feel her trembling once they had positioned themselves before the throne, the crowd having drawn back to provide a place for them to land, but instead, these six gracious beings hovered a few inches above the floor, their gossamer wings making a gentle, quiet, and cooling breeze.

Then the first fairy approached my mother and me, and said, “Fear not, good queen. We are here to bestow blessings upon your son.”

The fairy took me in her arms, kissed me upon my forehead, and said, facing the court so all could hear, “Better than kingly crown, or lands, or rich heritage, fair babe, I give thee a brave, strong heart. Be fearless as the eagle, and bold as the lion; be the bravest knight among men.”

I remember feeling such deep peace, and at the same time, such joy as she held me in her arms, and that peace and joy continued as I was passed into the arms of each of the fairies in turn.

When the second fairy took me into her arms, she sat down on my mother’s throne for my mother had risen and later stepped aside when the first fairy approached, and though it would have been treason for anyone else to sit on my mother’s throne, not a word was spoken when this fairy did so. For a moment, she dandled me fondly upon her knee, giggling with me, and then she looked me in the eye long and lovingly before she said, “What is a brave heart without the ability to do brave deeds? I give to thee many an opportunity for manly action.”

The third fairy then approached while I was yet on the second fairy’s knee, and kneeling before me, she took one of my hands in her own, and with her other hand, she stroked my hair, saying, “Strong-hearted boy, for whom so many noble deeds are waiting, I, too, will give thee a boon. My gift is skill and strength such as shall never fail thee in fight, nor allow thee to be beaten by a foe. Success to thee, fair Holger!”

The fourth fairy then took me from the second, who, with the third fairy, returned to her sisters, and this fairy then tenderly stroked my mouth and my brow before she said, “Be fair of speech, be noble in action, be courteous, be kind: these are the gifts I bring thee. For what will a strong heart, or a bold undertaking, or success in every endeavor, avail, unless one has the respect and love of one’s fellow men?”

Then the fifth fairy came forward; she clasped me against her breast and held me tenderly for a long time without saying a word. Finally, she looked at all the court, and she then held me away from her so she could look into my eyes and said, “The gifts my sisters have given thee will scarcely bring thee happiness, for, while they add to thy honor, they may make thee dangerous to others. They may lead thee into the practice of selfishness and base acts of tyranny. That man is little to be envied who loves not his fellow men. The boon, therefore, that I bring thee is the power and the will to esteem others as frail mortals equally deserving with thyself.”

And then the sixth fairy, the most beautiful of all, took me from the fifth; she lifted me high and danced about the room with me in rapturous joy, all the while singing sweetly a lullaby of fairyland and the island vale of Avalon, and then, although she never said her name, somehow I and all the court knew she was that fabled one, Morgan le Fay, sister to the great King Arthur and the Queen of Avalon.

When she had finished singing, Morgan le Fay placed a crown of laurel upon my head, and then a fairy torch appeared in her hand; when it lit by itself, it created a gasp of astonishment from all assembled. And then the Queen of Avalon said, “This torch is the measure of thy earthly days; and it shall not cease to burn until thou hast visited me in Avalon, and sat at table with King Arthur and the heroes who dwell there in that eternal summerland.”

And then Morgan le Fay gently placed me back into my mother’s arms, and with the torch still in her hand, she and the other fairies strewed the floor of the throne room with rich flowers and gems until all the air was filled with perfume and the angelic music resumed, and suddenly, a radiant sunbeam broke through the open windows until the room grew brighter and brighter and the light forced all to close their eyes, and at that moment, the music ended. After a second, when everyone opened his or her eyes, the fairies were nowhere to be seen, although the flowers and jewels remained.

And then I felt a great coldness come over me for the fairy’s blessings and their prophecies of my future fortune and mighty deeds were all that a mother could ever desire for her child, and this overwhelming joy must have filled my mother’s heart until it could not be contained and thereby burst. And in another second, my nurse ran to catch me as I tumbled from my mother’s lifeless arms.

 

Learn more about Ogier’s Prayer and purchase a copy of the novel at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

____________________________________________________________________________

Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, and the upcoming Lilith’s Love and Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly work King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. You can learn more about him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

Read Full Post »

Marquette, MI, December 9, 2015—Three centuries after she carried her brother, King Arthur, to Avalon, Morgan le Fay is still interfering in the lives of mortals. At the court of Charlemagne is the handsome and virile Prince Ogier of Denmark, and Morgan le Fay has surprising plans for him. Now Ogier tells the story of his amazing adventures in award-winning author Tyler R. Tichelaar’s new historical fantasy novel Ogier’s Prayer: The Children of Arthur, Book Three.

Tyler Tichelaar's newest Arthurian novel takes readers on a magic carpet ride from Charlemagne's France to Avalon, Jerusalem, and the fabled land of Prester John as King Arthur's descendants embark on a quest to fight an ancient evil.

Tyler Tichelaar’s newest Arthurian novel takes readers on a magic carpet ride from Charlemagne’s France to Avalon, Jerusalem, and the fabled land of Prester John as King Arthur’s descendants embark on a quest to fight an ancient evil.

Ogier the Dane is the greatest knight since King Arthur. Blessed at birth by Morgan le Fay and her fellow fairies, he has always known a great destiny awaits him. Even when his evil stepmother Gudrun turns his father’s affections against him, leading to his exile at Charlemagne’s court, he does not cease to aspire to greatness. There he befriends the great knight, Roland, and he achieves many valorous deeds, rescuing princesses and surpassing other men at arms.

Then Ogier’s father dies and his evil stepmother secretly marries Roland’s uncle, Geoffrey, son of the mysterious fairy Melusine. When, soon after, Ogier learns that Gudrun has murdered Geoffrey and taken Melusine’s magic ring, he fears Gudrun has sinister and far-reaching plans. Ogier soon pursues her beyond the limits of the known eighth century world. From France to Avalon, and from the fabled land of the legendary Christian king, Prester John, to the court of Haroun al-Rashid, the caliph of Arabian Nights fame, Ogier finds himself caught up in more adventures and mysteries than he ever could have conceived. Most importantly, before his quest is completed, he will discover that the power of prayer can work wonders that no manner of manly prowess could ever accomplish.

Bookending Ogier’s tale is that of Adam and Anne Delaney, a twentieth century couple who have appeared in each volume of the Children of Arthur series. The Delaneys’ children have just been kidnapped, and they fear it is by the latest incarnation of Ogier’s evil sorceress stepmother, who is preparing to unleash havoc upon the human race. In their efforts to protect their children and stop this ancient supernatural woman, they are guided by the great magician Merlin, who reveals to them their own family’s connections to Morgan le Fay and her lover Ogier.

Arthurian authors and fans have been delighted with each volume of the Children of Arthur series. Sophie Masson, editor of The Road to Camelot, praises the first book, Arthur’s Legacy, as “an intriguing blend of action-packed time-slip fantasy adventure, moving love story, multi-layered mystery, and unusual spiritual exploration.” Cheryl Carpinello, author of Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, proclaims that the second book, Melusine’s Gift, is “reminiscent of those ancient Tales from the Arabian Nights where one story flows into the next…. I can’t recommend this series enough.” And Roslyn McGrath, author of The Third Mary, calls Ogier’s Prayer an “inspirational re-visioning of the past…vivid, suspenseful storytelling will leave you craving the next installment of this thought-provoking, delightfully plot-twisting series!”

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of numerous historical fiction novels, including The Marquette Trilogy, The Best Place, and the award-winning Narrow Lives, as well as the scholarly books The Gothic Wanderer and King Arthur’s Children and the play Willpower.

Ogier’s Prayer: The Children of Arthur, Book Three (ISBN 9780996240017, Marquette Fiction, 2015) can be purchased in paperback and ebook editions through local and online bookstores. For more information, visit www.ChildrenofArthur.com. Review copies available upon request.

###

Read Full Post »

Twenty years ago, I used to read every Arthurian novel that was published—there seemed to be three or four a year—but then the self-publishing revolution happened, so now there are more than I can ever read in a lifetime; therefore, picking which ones to read is extremely difficult.

TheMaidofCamelotI stumbled upon The Maid of Camelot since it came up when I looked for my own book, Arthur’s Legacy: The Children of Arthur, Book One, at Amazon because its subtitle is Arthur’s Legacy: Volume One. Well, there’s no copyright on book titles and I actually was intrigued that someone would come up with a similar title. After reading the description of the novel, it sounded like the maid of the title, Fleur, might just be one of King Arthur’s descendants, and since I had documented all the known (to me at the time) treatments of possible descendants of Arthur in my nonfiction book King Arthur’s Children and predicted that more Arthurian novels would begin to depict children for King Arthur, which has been the case, I was interested in seeing how the author—J. Hannigan—would treat the subject.

Now, as I said, there are a lot of Arthurian novels being self-published, and sadly, a lot of them are not very good; The Maid of Camelot started out very well—many self-published novels do, but about halfway through, it started to be plagued with too many typos and regrettable periodic switching from first to third person point of view. Hopefully, Hannigan will find a good editor for future books in the series. That aside, I was intrigued and thought the book showed a lot of promise as I started reading.

I won’t summarize the entire plot, but just the opening scenes, along with mentioning one plot twist that will be a spoiler alert if you haven’t yet read the novel.

Yes, the novel is about a descendant of King Arthur—sort of, as I’ll explain shortly. It opens in Thessaly with Fleur, who learns that her maternal grandfather, King Arthur, has died. Fleur is the daughter of Orlando, son to the King of Thessaly and Melora, daughter of King Arthur. Melora is a minor character in this story, but she has her own sixteenth century romance, Eachtra Mhelóra agus Orlando (The Adventures of Orlando and Melora), an Irish story that was heavily influenced by Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, in which Orlando, son to the King of Thessaly, travels to Britain and falls in love with King Arthur’s daughter, Melora. I thought it fabulous that Hannigan used Melora in the novel. I don’t know of any other modern novelist who has revisited the story of Melora, although many authors have created daughters for King Arthur in recent years. Needless to say, I was hooked by the book at this point.

And it only got better because Fleur decided she would disguise herself as a female knight and travel to Britain with Parsival, who happens to visit Thessaly. Of course, they believe that Mordred slew King Arthur, but when they arrive in Britain, they find that Constantine, the Roman Emperor, was trying to conquer Britain, and also that Mordred did not kill Arthur, but rather, the story of Arthur’s death was spread to confuse his enemies.

Now I was both interested and also a little confused. I’ve always preferred to think Mordred was a good guy, as several traditions exist that he was. I also, in my own novels, have made Constantine out to be the cause of Arthur’s downfall—after all, history is written by the conquerors, so I always figured he blackened Mordred’s reputation. I was thrilled that J. Hannigan seemed to have the same idea.

But the problem is that in the traditional legend, Constantine is Arthur’s relative, usually in some unspecified way, and from Cornwall. Of course, Constantine is a Roman name and it might imply he is of Roman descent, but he couldn’t be the emperor of Rome. There hadn’t been a Roman emperor of that name since Constantine III who died in 411 A.D. That led me to wonder what year the story takes place—something that J. Hannigan either didn’t think through or decided wasn’t important. At one point, we are told the Christian religion is three hundred years old, which made me think Constantine I (r. 306-337) is the Constantine referred to. That would make sense given that Rome is trying to take Britain—and the Romans left Britain about 410 A.D. But later, we are told that Arthur knew Clovis, King of the Franks, who died in 511, a century later. It’s even more confusing when Hengist shows up in the story—he supposedly came to Britain in 449. And of course, the traditional date for the Battle of Camlann is 539 A.D. or thereabouts, so just when does this story take place? There wasn’t any Roman Empire in the West after 476, so it just doesn’t add up.

Then comes the mystical part of the story, which adds to the dating confusion. Because Arthur was betrayed by his wife and Lancelot, he missed the opportunity to bring about heaven on earth—the chance is only available once every 1500 years. Once Fleur meets Arthur, he explains that they now have to wait another 1500 years, but to be conscious and live so long would drive them mad, so they’ll hibernate in a cave and wake up 1500 years from now. I assume that means they will wake in the present, so roughly 2015, and if that’s the case, the story takes place in 515—again, too late for the Roman empire to exist (unless one is referring to the Byzantine Empire, which called itself Roman at the time, but I don’t think that’s what Hannigan meant).

And then I realized the story was going into modern times and my interest in it started to wane. Arthur explains that he and Morag (his sister, apparently Morgan le Fay or Morgause—why Hannigan didn’t stick with one of those names I don’t understand) and some others are really Atlans—people who survived the destruction of Atlantis. They need to find Scala, Arthur’s sword, which is fashioned from a dragon’s tooth. Morag denies they are really brother and sister, but she and Arthur are related and they have been at work on earth for thousands of years.

Anyway, the characters all go to sleep and wait for 1500 years to pass. Next thing we know, Fleur wakes up in the twenty-first century. At this point, the story became a bit hard for me to follow—I somewhat lost interest in it, and it seemed kind of full of mayhem. It also switched from Fleur’s viewpoint to that of other characters, including Parsival and a modern-day bodyguard named Janet, along with the awkward point of view shifts I mentioned.

I won’t summarize the rest of the plot but just reveal one key point at the end—Fleur finds out she is not Arthur’s granddaughter after all. Her real mother is Morag, and that means Mordred isn’t her uncle but her half-brother. She was hidden and raised by Melora to protect her. Stranger yet, Morag had mated with Dharg, the dragon whose tooth Scala was formed from—he was in mortal form at the time—and Fleur is the result of that union.

Therefore, while Melora is Arthur’s descendant, Fleur is not, and that means this isn’t really a significant novel for the treatment of Arthur’s descendants. I have to admit I was disappointed by this revelation, plus the novel, because of its focus on characters in the modern day, just wasn’t my cup of tea; even with the cliffhanger at the end, I probably won’t go on to read the sequels since I doubt any further treatment of Arthur’s descendants will be included.

All that said, I am glad that J. Hannigan and so many authors continue to write on Arthurian themes. For me, however, the historical time period of Arthur is what most interests me, and even though I have many modern scenes in my Arthurian novels, ultimately, projecting the Arthurian characters into the twenty-first century doesn’t do it for me as much as the sixth century did. But the Arthurian legend is vast and has no borders, and that makes it timeless and able to adapt and continue to be retold century after century.

The Maid of Camelot is available at Amazon. I could not find much on the author except this at http://awesomegang.com/the-maid-of-camelot/

“Raised on stories of knights and heroism, J. Hannigan had a lifelong dream to bring chivalry into the 21st century.

“J’s first novel, The Maid of Camelot, treads new ground in dealing with the actual personalities of famous Arthurian figures in a real world context.

“Always open to feedback and interaction, J welcomes suggestions, criticisms and general rapprochement.”

I hope J. Hannigan, if he (or she) reads this, does not feel too much rapprochement from my criticisms and continues to write about Arthurian themes and characters.

______________________________________________________________________

Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy and Melusine’s Gift, and he has written the nonfiction book King Arthur’s Children. You can learn more about him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

Read Full Post »

On Tuesday, October 21, I had the opportunity to see Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot—The National Tour at the Rozsa Center in Houghton, Michigan. Yes, I live 100 miles from Houghton and my night vision isn’t the best, so to get there I had to get a hotel room and spend the night, but Camelot is my all-time favorite musical and movie, and having never seen it performed live, I knew it would be worth the trouble.

First, let me say I’m a Camelot addict. I have seen the movie more times than I can count, and I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say I’ve listened to the movie soundtrack thousands of times—I wore out the record, wore out the cassette tape and CD, and hopefully, won’t wear out my iTunes. I also have played hundreds if not thousands of times the original Broadway Cast recording as well as the 1982 London recording and watched the HBO version from 1982 with Richard Harris. For thirty years, Camelot has been a big part of my life and a major influence on my deciding to study the Arthurian legend and write my own novel series about it.

Merlin makes a stunning departure when enchanted by Nimue. (Photo taking from https://www.facebook.com/CamelotMusicalTour)

Merlin makes a stunning departure when enchanted by Nimue. (All photos taking from https://www.facebook.com/CamelotMusicalTour – no photography is allowed during the production.)

So my expectations were very high to see this production. I find it a bit hard not to keep comparing it to the film since it’s not a film and you can’t achieve on stage what you can on film nor perfect it in the same way. Given those limitations, I was intrigued by this production. It was promoted as “Camelot like you’ve never seen it before,” and the ads with the scruffy looking knight made it seem like it would be a modernized, visually stimulating and maybe sexed-up Camelot for a new era. Would this still be President Kennedy’s beloved Camelot? I was relieved to find it was. With a few exceptions, it faithfully followed the original Broadway production, and I’m sure Kennedy, whose administration was named after it because he loved it so much, would have enjoyed last night’s performance.

Of course, I have a few criticisms, so I’ll point out what was good, what could have been better, and what made this play stand out from the film.

The first thing that grabbed my attention was that the play started with Arthur speaking—no overture! But I think this lack worked to bring about the crisis moment the show opens with of Arthur about to fight Lancelot for Guinevere, thus allowing the flashback. I admit, with the knights in the scene, it looked a bit flashy and hardcore and I felt a little uncomfortable about where it might be going, but soon the scene went back in time, and the minute King Arthur (Adam Grabau) opened his mouth to start singing “I Wonder What the King Is Doing Tonight,” I was hooked. Guinevere (Mary McNulty) then made her entrance with her wonderful song “Where Are the Simple Joys of Maidenhood” and the show was off to a great start.

The magic came to life through the acting and the singing, but the costumes and sets definitely added to that magic. For me, the most impressive costume was Lancelot’s—metallic and shimmering and full of detail, although Guinevere’s costumes were impressive as well, as was Nimue’s. Merlin and Pellinore’s costumes could use a little trimming. Both roles were played by Mark Poppleton, who was convincing and just a tad comical without going too far in each role—but his robe got caught under the backdrop as it came down when he made his entrance and he had to yank it out, and later as Pellinore, his robe caught on the furniture. That said, because of these characters’ roles, it made it seem almost like these snafus were intended for comical effect.

The sets were a bit understated but worked well. I was a bit taken aback by the gigantic metallic structure that doubled for trees and a canopy for the throne room, but it worked well for its purpose, allowing Arthur to fall out of his tree, among other things. The most impressive set was when Nimue enchanted Merlin—a truly beautiful moment of special effects. Almost as impressive was the jousting scene with the wonderful music rarely included on recordings, and of course, the lighting for the song “Guinevere” was dramatic and spectacular. The only place I felt the lighting effects could have been better was for “The Lusty Month of May.” I think a green and blue background would have said May more than the magenta pink coloring, and I would have liked to have seen a Maypole or more flowers. Mary McNulty as Guinevere had a beautiful voice and deserved a set to match the frolicsome fun and just the slightest touch of mischief (eat your heart out, Vanessa Redgrave) she conveyed during this song. Still, both the costume and scene designers deserve kudos for their overall impressive work.

There is really little I can fault in the production, but there are a few things I would have done differently. Lancelot (Tim Rogan) really did a splendid job in his role overall. He was appropriately unlikeable in his quest for purity and goodness, yet believable. He got the audience laughing as he made a grand entrance singing “C’est Moi” while still convincing us of his manly valor. I’m afraid he’s no Franco Nero (but then even Franco Nero wasn’t quite Franco Nero since his voice was dubbed for the film), but I’d rather listen to Tim Rogan sing over Robert Goulet (Goulet was wonderful in other shows, especially The Happy Time, but he never convinced me as Lancelot). I wasn’t quite convinced that Rogan’s Lancelot was French, but better not to try the French accent probably. The miracle scene was quite well done and convincing, as were all Lancelot’s speeches about chivalry, but alas, I wish he hadn’t been so stiff when he sang “If Ever I Would Leave You.” I would have liked to have seen a little movement and emotion on his part. He honestly looked uncomfortable singing it—a little taking of Guinevere’s hand, holding her, walking about the stage would have brought it to life. I expected a lot here though since the film’s love montage for this song is breathtaking and one of the most beautiful moments in cinematic history in my opinion—and the song ranks as one of my all time three favorite songs (along with “Memory” from Cats and “And This Is My Beloved” from Kismet) and in all other ways, he was a superb Lancelot, but he could use some work in being convincing for this song. All that said, I can definitely see why Guinevere would prefer him to Arthur, as fine as Adam Grabau’s Arthur was throughout the show—worthy to stand beside Richard Burton if not quite Richard Harris.

Tim Rogan as Lancelot praising his own virtues. "But where in the world Is there in the world A man so extraordinaire?"

Tim Rogan as Lancelot praising his own virtues. “But where in the world
Is there in the world
A man so extraordinaire?”

A few key differences about this production compared to the film and other productions of it stood out concerning the songs. Most importantly, the play includes several songs that were dropped from the film: “Fie On Goodness,” “The Seven Deadly Virtues,” “Before I Gaze on You Again,” and the madrigal sung by Lancelot. All of these were included in this new production and were performed well, especially “The Seven Deadly Virtues” sung by a delightfully naughty Mordred (Kasidy Devlin). And “Before I Gaze on You Again” was very convincing and Mary McNulty made me feel the words in a way Julie Andrews never has. Also the jousting music, was a treat to hear. The only disappointment of these songs for me was the lines cut from “Fie On Goodness” regarding Scotland—who wouldn’t want to stroke someone’s bonny….

Two songs, however, from the play and film both were cut in this production—“Take Me to the Fair” and “I Loved You Once in Silence.” And both are such wonderful songs that it’s a shame they were cut. I’m not aware that they have been cut in other productions. (I know it’s a long show so maybe that was why, but I was prepared to sit there for three wonderful hours, so I was a bit disappointed it only lasted two and a half with these songs cut.)The placement of the songs was also somewhat odd. “If Ever I Would Leave You” is usually at the beginning of the second act, but instead, it was placed where “I Loved You Once in Silence” belongs. I think moving “If Ever I Would Leave You” back where it belongs and keeping this love song would have been preferable. “I Loved You Once in Silence” really adds to the love development which I felt there could have been a bit more of in this production.

One song is changed in its placement and lyrics from the play to the film. “Follow Me” in the play version is sung by Nimue when she enchants Merlin, and it is a beautiful song and a beautiful moment as she leads him “To a cave by a sapphire shore/Where we’ll walk through an emerald door,/And for thousands of breathless evermores my life you shall be.” I love this song, but I also love how it’s sung by the forest creatures in the film production to convince Arthur that “as we were, we can be, follow me.”

As for Morgan le Fay’s character, I knew she was cut from the show in the early years after it was first performed in 1960, but in the concert version in 2008, broadcast as part of PBS’ Live from Lincoln Center series, Fran Drescher played the role, so I was hoping Morgan le Fay was making her comeback in the production, but I’ll have to hope to see her in another future performance.

Overall, an enjoyable evening. If I had never seen Camelot, I’m sure I would have raved about it. The crowd gave the performance a standing ovation and everyone enjoyed it, including the woman seated beside me who had seen Robert Goulet in a 1960s production in Detroit. I was also pleased to see so many college students in the audience—of all the great musicals from the mid-twentieth century, Camelot perhaps most deserves to live on for its universal themes and appeal, so I hope future generations will continue to embrace it.

The knighting of Lancelot scene.

The knighting of Lancelot scene.

If you’ve never seen Camelot on stage or at all, go. Beyond the sets, singing, costumes, and story, there is a beautiful underlying theme about right and wrong, good and evil, and how we must fight against the darkness because whatever we do does matter in the end. Camelot long ago inspired me to “ask every person if he’s heard the story, and tell it strong and clear if he has not.” Now I’m telling you to go see it. It’s still early in the tour and I’m sure it will just get better with each performance. To find out where Camelot is playing near you, visit http://www.camelottour.com/tickets.html

______________________________________________

Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, and The Children of Arthur novel series. Visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com and www.GothicWanderer.com

Read Full Post »

Merlin has ended, and unlike King Arthur, it doesn’t seem likely that it will be the once and future TV show, despite countless fans on Facebook and across the Internet trying to convince the producers to continue it.

And as much as I love this show, I’m glad it has ended gracefully, before it “jumped the shark,” before it was cancelled without an ending.

Merlin310_2289The series finale offered few surprises in my opinion, but that is because we have heard the tale of King Arthur so many times before, and despite the original elements of the series, which often seriously diverged from the legend, I doubt any viewer who knows the Arthurian legend would have been content with any other ending than Arthur sailing off to Avalon.

It’s unlikely anyone will read this blog who didn’t see the episode, so I won’t summarize the plot here, but go watch the last two episodes of the series if you haven’t already.

For me, this series had a serious amount of content that needed resolving in this final episode. The strength of this storyline throughout has been the prohibition of magic in Albion, imposed by Uther and then by Arthur, and how Merlin has successfully kept secret his identity as a sorcerer from everyone, while trying to aid others with magic and often fighting those with magic who sought to harm Arthur, most notably Morgana. The series has done a tremendous job of highlighting this tension throughout, and in the last two seasons especially, we have seen Merlin come into his own, slowly using his powers and even revealing himself to his enemies before destroying them. And despite my earlier blog about the Old Religion and magic and the inconsistencies that exist in its treatment in the series, what has mattered most to the storyline has been how Merlin reconciles his magic with his relationship with Arthur, as Arthur’s servant in greater ways than Arthur knows.

And the series reconciles this issue with great ease and class. In the final episode, Merlin appears as a sorcerer, identity unknown to all except Gaius, at the Battle of Camlann, using his power to defeat the enemy, and having everyone realize a sorcerer has saved the day for Camelot, even Arthur admitting that the sorcerer won the battle. But Merlin cannot save Arthur from being slain by Mordred. Surprisingly, Arthur lingers for a couple of days after Mordred runs him through with a sword, while when Arthur stabs Mordred, he dies immediately.

Now Merlin must figure out how to save Arthur before Morgana can find him, and because he was slain with a sword forged in the dragon’s breath, he can only be saved if brought to Avalon, a journey that requires secrecy and a couple of days’ journey, allowing Arthur and Merlin to have the discussion they have put off all these years.

Merlin, in despair, tells Arthur how upset he is that he could not save him which leads to his revelation that he has magic and is a sorcerer. The result is Arthur’s initial disbelief, then anger that he has been lied to, even wanting Merlin to leave him, and finally, Arthur’s understanding of why Merlin kept his powers a secret, and of the great help Merlin has always been to him.

I admit, at this point, when Arthur tells Merlin he has something to tell him that he never told him before, I thought the show was going to give into the “Merthur” fans and have Arthur tell Merlin he loves him. It was for me a bit of an uncomfortable moment, for the Merthur fans (those who want to see a gay relationship between Arthur and Merlin) have not been too far off—Merlin’s closeted magic can easily serve as a commentary on closeted gay people within our own society who are unappreciated and unjustly considered to be deviant—but the show gracefully skirts these undertones (which may or may not be intentional—I’ll leave it up to each viewer to decide) by having Arthur simply say, “Thank you.” And thank you is enough for Merlin, and that moment is enough to resolve the show’s greatest tension. It is a powerful moment. Perhaps one of the very best in television history.

What happens next is not so surprising. Morgana makes one last attempt to kill Arthur, but Merlin successfully kills her, slaying her with Excalibur, a dragon breath forged sword just like the one she created to kill Arthur. To some extent, I found Morgana’s death scene anti-climactic, and more disappointing for me is that Morgana and Arthur did not reconcile in the end, for in the traditional legend, it is Morgana who comes to Arthur when he is dying to take him to Avalon. Morgana truly got the short end of the stick in this show—I almost wanted her to win in the end—she’s a great character who deserved redemption of some sort and the reconciliation of the Old Religion with Camelot—but perhaps that was too much to expect, too much happiness for what is basically a tale of tragedy.

Not only does Morgana not take Arthur to Avalon, but nor are there the traditional three other queens who accompany her, and there is no Sir Bedivere to tell Arthur to throw the sword into the lake. Merlin takes on all these roles. Merlin tosses the sword back in the lake and the hand reaches up to grab it. The dragon arrives and tells Merlin not to despair for all has happened as it should and Arthur is the once and future king who will return in Albion’s hour of greatest need, and then Arthur is placed in a boat and floats off to Avalon.

As for Albion, the throne passes to Guinevere. I don’t really want to know what happens next because it will be inferior to whatever came before. I had hoped we’d learn that Guinevere was at least pregnant with Arthur’s child, but no such hint. I imagine she’ll end up marrying Sir Leon since he’s at her side proclaiming her queen.

And then we see Merlin as an old man walking along the shore by the lake, and suddenly, a bus passes, a jarring moment letting us know that Merlin still waits for Arthur’s return, but also one that makes Albion appear to be part of our real world and not a fantasy kingdom. I’ve always believed the show intentionally created a fictional world, including fictional neighboring kingdoms, so it would not be caught up in the issues of depicting a sixth century, historical Britain. So I found this modern moment jarring, as well as the references in the last few episodes to Saxons, without any explanation of who they were. Albion is not England nor Britain, yet the show ends on this odd note trying to connect the two. I’d have been fine without that final scene.

My qualms with the series overall are few, however. Long ago I stated it was the best Arthurian TV series ever made, far surpassing the short-lived 2011 Starz Camelot series that was a complete disaster, or even the fun 1950s British The Adventures of Sir Lancelot series. Is it perfect? No. There has yet to be a perfect Arthurian film or television program, but Merlin gets an A- for effort. Finally, I think Colin Morgan has proven himself to be a great actor in this series and I hope it leads to big things for him—just not another Merlin series. Please, I understand the fans’ demands, but don’t destroy Merlin with a spin-off or sequel series. Like with Gone with the Wind, we need to leave well enough alone. Let there be many other Arthurian TV shows and films and books—I hope there shall never be an end to them. Just let Merlin be the great TV show it was without degrading it. Congratulations to the writers, producers, and cast for ending it well.

______________________________________________________________________

Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. He is currently working on a series of novels about Arthur’s descendants. You can visit Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »