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Today, I will be interviewing Arthurian novelist Nicole Evelina about her new novel, Camelot’s Queen, the second of three books in the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy following Daughter of Destiny. (You can also read on this blog my review of her two novels Daughter of Destiny and Camelot’s Queen and my previous interview with her about Daughter of Destiny.)

Nicole Evelina, author of "Camelot's Queen" about Guinevere's years married to King Arthur.

Nicole Evelina, author of “Camelot’s Queen” about Guinevere’s years married to 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 skills, and is held by only 8,000 people worldwide. Her goal in writing Arthurian fiction is to create a strong female protagonist in the person of Guinevere in the series. And it looks like she’s succeeded because Daughter of Destiny has so far won:

  • Book of the Year – Chanticleer Reviews
  • Gold Medal – Next Generation Indie Book Awards
  • First Place, Legacy/legend category – 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Women’s Fiction/Romantic Fiction

Short list – 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction

SelectedLibrary Journal’s curated SELF-e Select module

Hopefully, we’ll find out Nicole’s secret for writing great Arthurian fiction here today.

Tyler: Welcome back, Nicole. I’ve been anxious to find out what happens to Guinevere, and I wasn’t disappointed in the second book in the series. The first book, Daughter of Destiny, focused on the years leading up to Guinevere’s marriage, which are usually fairly ignored by Arthurian writers, but this second book follows the main tradition from her marriage to King Arthur until Lancelot rescues her from being burnt at the stake. Consequently, you had a lot more material to work with here, but also less license to be wholly imaginative, so would you say writing Camelot’s Queen was easier or more difficult as a result?

Nicole: Thanks for having me here again. Always a pleasure! To answer your question, it made it easier and harder. Having more source material gave me more to work with, but I also had more to cull through and in the early drafts, I had a tough time bringing focus to the book because I wanted to cover everything. It also means readers have a lot more expectations coming into this book than they do with the others, so I had to keep in mind both the story I wanted to tell with what most people would expect, and if I was going to change something, give them a darn good reason for it.

Tyler: One of the most detailed sections of the book concerns what happens when Guinevere is abducted by Malegant. You made a lot of interesting changes to the story in this section that I thought made it very powerful. What made you decide to tell the tale in the way you did here?

Nicole: I felt like it was part of the tradition that couldn’t be ignored. Here I am telling this woman’s life story from her point of view, so there’s no logical way to skip over it without the gap being really obvious. I kept in mind the tenant that “every villain is the hero of their own story” when creating Malegant and defining his personality and back story. I wanted the reader to be able to understand why he did the terrible things he did and that in his mind, he was in the right. He wasn’t just some mustache-twirling villain who was there because tradition dictated it; he had an untapped back-story, just like Guinevere.

As for the changes around Arthur and Morgan’s roles, without spoiling anything, I’ll say I did that because I wanted to do something other than have her be his sister. When I eliminated that possibility, I had to think hard about what their relationship would be and how that would impact the rest of the story. What would make these characters still act in accord with tradition? Luckily for me, Celtic law provided the perfect answer.

Tyler: Did you have a favorite scene or section in the novel that you enjoyed writing?

Nicole: The whole section around Guinevere’s kidnapping is my favorite, hands down. But I also love three of the scenes with Aggrivane: when he and Guinevere talk after he comes back to Camelot, what happens after Lancelot is invested as champion, and their scene together right before the burning.

Tyler: While most of the characters will be familiar to readers of Arthurian books, you do introduce some new characters such as Sobian. Why did you decide to create her?

Nicole: She created herself, believe it or not. Originally, she appeared when Arthur, Guinevere and a group of knights were traveling around the kingdom, visiting all of the people, much like the famous progress Queen Elizabeth I made around England every year. When she popped into my head she was very mysterious, and much like I had to do with Arthur, I had to force her to open up and give me a clue who she was. Obviously, that section evolved over various drafts, but Sobian remained. I think that it is important for you to see someone from Arthur’s past and know that he had a life, lovers, friends, before he became king. She’s also an incredibly strong woman, one who adds to the court tremendously, while also helping keep the men in check.

Tyler: I think one of my favorite scenes in the novel was how you treated the Holy Grail when it is first discovered. Will you tell our readers a little about that scene and what your goal was with it?

Nicole: Do you mean the scene where they all see it for the first time? For those who haven’t read it, the grail changes form so that everyone sees it according to their own faith or cultural tradition. So a Christian sees the traditional chalice, while a pagan sees a cauldron or a drinking horn, depending on their background, etc.

It was important to me that whatever I do, I not take away from or slight anyone’s personal idea of the grail. It has been so many things over the years—a cauldron, a drinking horn, a stone, a chalice, a cup, even Mary Magdalene—that I wanted every reader to be able to see their own beliefs reflected in it, just as the characters do. Regardless of whether or not the grail actually exists, it’s a powerful symbol to so many people and I wanted my version to represent unity through diversity.

"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.

Tyler: I was struck that Bishop Marius plays a rather villainous role in the novel. It seems quite common in Arthurian literature, at least since Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, for Christianity to come off negatively. Do you think that’s a fair statement and why do you think the negative depictions of Christianity in the legend are so popular today?

Nicole: I love Bishop Marius. He is so much fun to write.

I do think it’s a popular way to portray Christianity. I’m not sure what reason other authors have for that, but I would guess it may have something to do with Christianity representing the establishment and people being tired of it. Therefore, they glorify the other, which in this case is paganism.

For me it was more a matter of exploring the tension between pagan religions and Christianity at the turn of the fifth/sixth century, which is when these books are set. Yes, Marius is evil, but that’s because there have always been orthodox and power-hungry men in the Church, no matter the time period (Cardinal Richelieu in the 1600s comes immediately to mind as an example of the power hungry). With the conflict between the old and new religious being what it was, there no doubt would have been those zealous souls who wanted to wipe out all trace of the old religion.

That doesn’t mean that all of them are evil, however. That’s why you see a bit of Father Dafydd, who is one of the good men of the Church. He originally had a larger part, but even with what remains in the story, I hope you can see that he represents the positive side of the Church.

Tyler: I also find Morgan a fascinating character, and I love how she continues to thwart Guinevere throughout the series. Will she continue to play a role in the third novel, and will we ever find out the secret of her parentage?

Nicole: Yes, she’s definitely in the third book. As of right now I do plan on revealing who her parents are, but because the book isn’t finished, I can’t 100% guarantee that will stay in. But I bet it does.

Tyler: I hope you do leave it in. I can’t wait to find out. You’ve also stated that you wanted to create a strong female protagonist in this series, but at times, I admit that Guinevere seems a little too hot-headed and even childish, and I think as the author you were aware of that since even Merlin tells her she’s selfish at one point. Do you feel like she’s always justified in her behavior, or is she just fallible like the rest of us?

Nicole: Oh no, she’s not always justified. She’s flawed just like the rest of us, which I hope makes her more relatable. If you think about the way she was raised, her selfishness makes sense. She was the treasured only living child of parents who suffered much disappointment and loss as they watched a dozen children die at various points in life. So from the beginning she had only to think of herself. Then she was sent to Avalon, which was an honor not bestowed upon many. Granted, while she was there she had to learn some humility and how to live with others, but not long after she leaves she becomes queen. This role elevates her above all others and helps her default selfishness kick back in again. It’s only over time that she matures and learns to see beyond her own nose.

Tyler: I know you have another book coming out soon not on an Arthurian topic but on Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for U.S. President, back in the nineteenth century. I admit I never heard of her until I heard about your book, so will you tell us a little about this other book and why you chose this non-Arthurian topic since I suspect you see Woodhull as not too dissimilar from Guinevere as a strong woman?

Nicole: Sure. I picked Victoria exactly because she is a strong woman and those are the type I aim to portray in my writing. I found out about her by accident. I saw a pin on Pinterest of a beautiful woman who caught my eye. When I read the caption, I knew I had my next book subject. It said “Known by her detractors as “Mrs. Satan,” Victoria Claflin Woodhull, born in 1838, married at age fifteen to an alcoholic and womanizer. She became the first woman to establish a brokerage firm on Wall Street and played an active role in the woman’s suffrage movement. She became the first woman to run for President of the United States in 1872. Her name is largely lost in history. Few recognize her name and accomplishments.”

I hadn’t learned anything about her in school, and I suspected many others hadn’t either. So I wanted to do what I could to restore her to her rightful place in history by telling her story. She’s a woman of many accomplishments including being the first woman to run a stock brokerage on Wall Street, the first woman to testify before Congress, one of the first women to run a weekly newspaper, and the first female presidential candidate. Her family is crazier and pulls more stunts than I could ever make up. (Truth really is stranger than fiction.) And while Victoria is certainly no saint, I think people will enjoy reading about her.

Tyler: Nicole, for authors, writing can be a lonely task and you work on your books for years hoping people will like them. How has your view of writing changed since you’ve now published these first two Arthurian novels and have you learned anything from the feedback you’ve received from readers?

Nicole: It’s been a while since I’ve thought of writing as lonely, thanks to the amazing writing online community, especially on Twitter. But I will admit to feeling a bit more pressure now that I know people like the first two Guinevere novels. I always wanted to end the series strong, but now I feel like I owe my readers a great story, rather than just owing it to Guinevere or myself. That’s both good and bad in that it’s motivating, but could turn paralyzing if I think about it too much.

I’ve learned from readers that there has been a thirst for stories about Guinevere that’s gone untapped for a long time. My story has been what a lot of people were looking for. But not all. That’s another thing I’m learning—no book can satisfy everyone. Readers will sometimes read things into books that aren’t there or that you don’t intend; that can color their feedback and there’s nothing as the author you can do about it.

Tyler: Thanks again for joining me today, Nicole. Before we go, will you remind us when the last book of the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy will be out, and what your website is so we can watch for it?

Nicole: Thanks again for having me! The last book in the trilogy, Mistress of Legend, will be out in early 2017. I don’t have a firm date yet. My website is http://nicoleevelina.com/. I’m always happy to hear from readers by email, snail mail or on social media.

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

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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.

Despite the old adage, people always do judge a book by its cover, and so, in publishing The Children of Arthur series, I wanted the books’ covers to reflect the themes and atmosphere of their contents. Many fine graphic artists are out there, but I opted instead to use nineteenth century depictions of legendary figures that fit the individual book titles and which placed me within the literary and Romantic tradition I was modeling. I strongly believe I am trying to capture a somewhat more modern and progressive version of the Arthurian legend akin to what Pre-Raphaelite painters did in their art and nineteenth century authors like Alfred, Lord Tennyson and William Morris captured in their Arthurian poetry. Below is a description of each cover—and how it relates to the series overall.

Cover-ArthursLegacyArthur’s Legacy: The Children of Arthur, Book One

Cover Image: The Death of King Arthur (1860) by James Archer (1822-1904)

For me, no painting is more quintessentially Arthurian than this one, which captures the pivotal moment that transforms Arthur from a king into a legend. This may well be my favorite painting of all time. For me, it captures the great moment of reconciliation in the novel when Arthur has been wounded at Camlann and is about to be carried off to Avalon. Both Morgana and Guinevere come and make their peace with him, and Elaine also comes and makes her peace with Bedwyr, Guinevere’s lover. Of course, as we all know, despite the grief in this scene, Arthur is carried to Avalon to be healed of his wound, and there he resides until the day he will be called upon to return. This moment reminds us that he will return, and hence, his legacy is one of hope and immortality, much like that of Christ, who also plays a role in the novel.

Cover-MelusinesGiftMelusine’s Gift: The Children of Arthur, Book Two

Cover Image: The Fair Melusine (1844) by Julius Hübner (1806-1882)

Many images of Melusine have been painted over the years, but most, being medieval in look, fail to capture the Romantic style, depicting her in unflattering ways largely as a flying serpent. This painting is by a nineteenth century German artist and contemporary of the British Pre-Raphaelites, whose images fill the covers of all the other novels except this one and that of Ogier’s Prayer. To me, this painting was far more beautiful and positive than any other depictions of Melusine. It depicts the magic of Melusine as a mermaid. Some people told me it was too risqué for the cover, so I asked my cover designer to make one small change and move up Melusine’s arm to cover her nipple. Others thought it was creepy that a man is spying on Melusine—he is actually her husband, Raimond. By putting him on the back cover and wrapping the image around the book, I hoped to eliminate the creepiness and only provide the wonder as the first sensation the viewer experiences, and then upon flipping over the book, Raimond can be seen, which adds to the dimension and wonder of the story. This moment is pivotal because Raimond promised Melusine that if she married him, she could hide herself away in private every Saturday and he would not disturb her. When Raimond breaks his promise, Melusine is forced to leave him, but in Melusine’s Gift, I have made that moment not one of shame and curses, but one of wonder and expansion of knowledge. It is only then that Raimond learns what Melusine’s gift truly is.

Cover-OgiersPrayerOgier’s Prayer: The Children of Arthur, Book Three

Cover Image: The Flying Carpet (1880) by Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926)

In Ogier’s Prayer, Ogier the Dane, one of Charlemagne’s great knights, is carried on a magic carpet from the fabled land of Prester John to the court of the Caliph Haroun al-Rashid in Baghdad—and you can imagine the reactions of the people of Baghdad when they see him making his entrance in truly grand Arabian Nights style. This painting actually depicts the Russian folklore hero Ivan Tsarevich. However, I felt the scene of Ogier the Dane on a flying carpet was the most visual scene in Ogier’s Prayer so I sought for a flying carpet painting, and when I found this one, I thought it breathtaking. Yes, Ogier would be blonde, not dark-haired, but I imagine his years in the hot Middle East helped to darken his hair and complexion. In the painting, Ivan is carrying a magical firebird with him on the carpet, but if I hadn’t read about the painting, I would have just thought it a lantern, so I thought it close enough for the cover art I desired, and it gave the same feel and matched the Pre-Raphaelite and Romantic style of the other covers.

Cover-LilithsLoveLilith’s Love: The Children of Arthur, Book Four

Cover Image: La Belle Dame Sans Merci (1902) by Sir Francis Dicksee (1853-1928)

These last two covers are both by Sir Francis Dicksee, one of the best known of the Pre-Raphaelite artists. This first one depicts La Belle Dame Sans Merci, a popular theme of the Pre-Raphaelites. I know of at least two other depictions of her from this period, but this is the most fabulous one. Her name means in French, “The Beautiful Woman Without Mercy,” and she is based upon John Keats’ famous poem of the same name in which a supernatural woman takes a young man for her lover one night, and when he wakes in the morning, he finds that he has spent decades with her and is now an old man. The image was perfect for this book’s cover because Lilith is the primary antagonist of The Children of Arthur series and highly sexual, taking lovers so she can control them. In Jewish tradition, Lilith was the first wife of Adam; she was cast from Eden, and consequently, in The Children of Arthur series, she wants her revenge upon Adam and Eve’s descendants. But she also has a gift to give the world if the world would only quit fighting her—that of love. And so the novel’s title is a play both on the gift of her love and the man she loves. I thought the painting appropriate for the cover because the stunned looking man captures perfectly how the man she takes for her lover in the end must feel—and yes, he turns out to be a true and chivalrous knight.

Cover-ArthursBosomArthur’s Bosom: The Children of Arthur, Book Five

Cover Image: The Two Crowns (1900) by Sir Francis Dicksee (1853-1928)

I had the most difficulty in finding an image for this final book in the series, largely because I had only started to draft the novel at the time so I didn’t have a full idea of what it would be about yet. Then one day I stumbled upon this painting and knew it was perfect. This final novel depicts the return of King Arthur, and so what better to have on the cover than a king? It wasn’t until I saw the painting’s name that I even spotted there were two crowns in it—yes, the second is Christ with his crown of thorns. As with the cover for Melusine’s Gift, I decided to wrap the image so the back would surprise readers. In doing so, I had to have the image reversed since, originally, Christ was on the right side, and I wanted him on the back of the book. Only when you turn the book over then do you see that the king is looking at Christ and, therefore, is meditating upon what a true king is and what it means to wear a crown. It felt like it was destiny that I would find this painting, for at the same time, I first heard the theories of how Christ’s cross was brought back to Britain by the Empress Helena, and so that story and this painting with its depiction of Christ on the cross really inspired the writing of the novel. In the novel, my main character goes upon a quest to find the True Cross and by doing so, he helps to bring about King Arthur’s return. As for the book’s title, it refers to a line in Shakespeare, a play on the biblical phrase of “Abraham’s Bosom,” which is a reference to heaven. In the novel, the main character finds himself in what might be termed a type of Arthurian heaven.

I hope my choice of cover images inspires my readers and complements the primary theme of the Children of Arthur series, which is:

Imagination is the Salvation of Mankind.

May these books and their covers lead you on your own fabulously imaginative and world-changing journey!

The tale of Brutus, the great-grandson of Aeneas of Troy and the legendary founder of Britain, has long been the subject of historical speculation and national pride for the British.

As a lover of all things Arthurian, I’ve long been fascinated by the story of Brutus as well as the debate that has ensued over his historicity. Consequently, I was thrilled to receive a review copy of Anthony Adolph’s new book Brutus of Troy and the Quest for the Ancestry of the British from publisher Pen & Sword.

"Brutus of Troy" is the first full-length exploration of all versions of the Brutus legend, from its origins in the Trojan War to why the British cling to it.

“Brutus of Troy” is the first full-length exploration of all versions of the Brutus legend, from its origins in the Trojan War to why the British cling to it.

For those not familiar with Brutus’ story, I’ll briefly summarize it before discussing Adolph’s book.

When Troy fell, as told in Homer, Aeneas, a cousin to King Priam and hence a prince of Troy, fled from the city. His story is told in Virgil’s Aeneid. Eventually, Aeneas arrives in Italy and his descendants, Romulus and Remus, found Rome. Brutus, a cousin to Rome’s founders, is Aeneas’ great-grandson. Brutus accidentally kills his father and is sent into exile. He travels to Greece where he finds a group of enslaved Trojans whom he helps to achieve their freedom. They then travel across the Mediterranean, through the Strait of Gibraltar, and to Britain, which they colonize. Consequently, Brutus’ name is given to the island, Britain supposedly being a version of Brutus. The island, however, is occupied by giants, including Gogmagog, whom Brutus defeats. In time, Brutus’ descendants are successive kings of Britain, which leads down to the time of King Arthur and, eventually, through a Welsh line to Henry VII, making all successive monarchs of Great Britain Brutus’ descendants.

Various versions of Brutus’ story differ slightly in the details, but that’s the story in a nutshell. The question is—is the story true, and if not, why has it been so popular and mattered so much to the British?

Anthony Adolph sets out to answer those questions in Brutus of Troy. I admit that my initial desire to read this book came from my hope that Adolph would prove that the story of Brutus was undeniably true. After all, I’ve read books by authors like Alan Wilson and Baram Blackett, who believe the erasure of Brutus as a historical figure is a longstanding effort by the English to repress and destroy the Welsh sense of identity. I have no doubt that the English did plenty to oppress the Welsh over the centuries, but that doesn’t mean a Welsh legend is historical fact. Still, I’ve longed to believe Brutus’ story is true. After all, I can trace my own ancestry back to the Plantagenet kings of England, and Brutus was one of their alleged ancestors through the Welsh king Llewellyn the Great of Wales, and that would make Brutus my ancestor. It would also (and I’m being a bit facetious here) mean that since Brutus’ great-great-grandmother was Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, I am descended from the Greek Gods. (Now I know where I get my natural beauty.)

Adolph himself wanted to believe the story of Brutus, but the more he researched it, the more unlikely it seemed, and in the end, he had to conclude it is just a myth. Bummer. But that doesn’t mean that Brutus’ tale isn’t still a major part of the heritage of all modern-day Britons and their cousins in the United States and around the globe. Therefore, to understand the significance of Brutus’ legend, we need to look at how it developed.

A good bulk of Adolph’s book answers the question of how the story arose and why it became popular. He discusses how the Roman influence on Britain led to the Britons’ familiarity with classical literature, including the tales of Homer and Virgil about Troy. The arrival of Christianity in Britain also played a role. The British wished to link themselves to the classical and civilized world, to give themselves a substantial history, and so they manipulated genealogies to create the figure of Brutus and to make him the ancestor of their own Welsh kings. They also wanted to understand their place in the human family. They were not alone in this desire; the Irish, the French, and even the Norse made similar efforts, as Adolph describes—they found a way to manipulate genealogies to claim that the Trojans were the descendants of the biblical Noah, and later, the British created the tale of Joseph of Arimathea and even Christ coming to Britain. Joseph’s daughter, Anna, married Beli Mawr, a descendant of Brutus, and so the British became part of a line stretching back to Adam and Eve.

Yes, I still wish the tale of Brutus was true, but Adolph’s logic in explaining the tale’s evolution makes perfect sense and calls to mind another book I recently read, Myths of the Rune Stone by David Krueger about a Viking rune stone discovered in Minnesota in the late nineteenth century by a Scandinavian farmer. The stone was “proof” that the Vikings had traveled to Minnesota in the fourteenth century. Krueger explores how this stone was probably forged by the Scandinavian immigrants to Minnesota as a way to claim they had a right to the land they had taken from the Native Americans because their ancestors had been there before them. Similar claims are made regarding the Trojans in Britain—some people have even theorized that Troy was in Britain and the Trojans were driven out when Troy fell, so Brutus was leading a return to their homeland for his people. In any case, it comes as no surprise that people will manipulate the facts to create the history they want for themselves, and over time, what is false becomes perceived as the truth, and so for about a thousand years, the British people believed they were descendants of Brutus and his fellow Trojans.

Adolph goes on to explore how the legend of Brutus developed over time from the early medieval writing of Nennius to the elaborate History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, and then into the Renaissance period, eighteenth century, and Victorian age. Adolph exhausts his subject, summarizing and quoting from every work about Brutus that he could find, including works by Milton, Pope, Blake, and Wordsworth. While I appreciated his thoroughness, I had to admit that I found many of these summaries boring to read because they repeated the Brutus story over and over, just noting the differences and similarities, and most of the poems about Brutus were not first-rate. I agree with Adolph, however, that William Blake’s version of the story was probably the best. Adolph concludes by mentioning modern fiction that incorporates the myth, including Hades’ Daughter (2003) by Australian novelist Sara Douglass, which portrays a darker version of Brutus and even suggests he later reincarnated as William the Conqueror.

This painting by Federico Barocci depicts Brutus' great-grandfather, Aeneas, fleeing from Troy with his father Anchises on his shoulders.

This painting by Federico Barocci depicts Brutus’ great-grandfather, Aeneas, fleeing from Troy with his father Anchises on his shoulders.

Adolph also looks at efforts since the nineteenth century to prove the Brutus myth to be true, especially the work of the Victorian writer Rev. Richard Williams Morgan, whose works continue to be used by pseudo-historians but reflect creative scholarship and intentional twisting of history to fit his agenda of what he wants to believe.

Brutus of Troy concludes by looking at how the legend of Brutus has become part of British culture and how Brutus has become associated with various places in London (the New Troy that legend said he founded). Most notable of these is the Tower of London, where Brutus is said to be buried.

I especially appreciated the genealogy charts in the book that show how the current British royal family would be descended from Brutus and from Adam and Eve, if the genealogies were true, as well as showing Brutus’ relationship to other members of the Trojan royal family and its descendants, including Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. Finally, there are forty-five plate images in the middle of the book as well as illustrations throughout the rest of the book that depict places associated with Brutus and artwork based on his story. A particularly handy reference included is a timeline of the Brutus myth from the fall of Troy through the publications of various versions of his story, and of course, there is an extensive bibliography.

Brutus of Troy really made me understand better the role that the Brutus legend has played throughout British history and why it has stayed alive for centuries. It also made me want to read more of Anthony Adolph’s books since he is an avid writer about history and genealogy and the author of nine other books, including Tracing Your Aristocratic Ancestors and In Search of Our Ancient Ancestors.

Finally, of course, King Arthur gets a brief mention in terms of how he fits into the Brutus family tree. People interested in British history, genealogy, or the Arthurian legend will definitely want to add Brutus of Troy to their permanent collections.

For more information about Brutus of Troy and Anthony Adolph, visit Adolph’s website at http://anthonyadolph.co.uk/ or the publisher’s website at http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Brutus-of-Troy-Hardback/p/11213

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur, a five-book historical fantasy series, of which the first three books—Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, and Ogier’s Prayer—are now in print. He is also the author of King Arthur’s Children, a scholarly exploration of Arthur’s descendants in history and fiction, as well as many other books. You can learn more about him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com and www.MarquetteFiction.com.

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.

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

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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.

Daughter of Destiny: Guinevere’s Tale Book One is the latest addition in the plethora of Arthurian novels being published every year. Yes, there have been plenty of novels about Guinevere before, but this one stands out for several reasons.

Nicole Evelina's new novel is the first in a trilogy that allows Guinevere to tell the tale of Camelot from her own point of view.

Nicole Evelina’s new novel is the first in a trilogy that allows Guinevere to tell the tale of Camelot from her own point of view.

Author Nicole Evelina states that she was inspired to write this book after reading Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon and loving it but hating how Bradley depicted Guinevere in the novel. Admittedly, I agree that Guinevere is the weakest character in that otherwise powerful novel, and Evelina’s Guinevere is a remarkable improvement as she tells her story in first person narration.

In Evelina’s version, Guinevere is far from the frightened Christian girl of Bradley’s novel. Instead, she is the strong-willed daughter of a Roman-descended king and a mother who was part of the Votadini tribe. Guinevere’s maternal family are believers in the old religion of Avalon, and so Guinevere is sent there to study, where she learns beside several other well-known characters from the legends, including Viviane and Morgan. This first part set in Avalon was probably my favorite section of the novel since I have always loved the idea of Avalon and tried to envision what it is like and have depicted it in my own Arthurian novels. Evelina is obviously influenced by Bradley in her depictions, but she also gives the story twists of her own, especially in the rivalry that develops between Guinevere and Morgan. Yes, like Morgan, Guinevere has her gifts—she has the gift of the sight—she can see events at a great distance as they happen—it’s like her brain is able to Skype! But perhaps most surprising in the novel is the young man who becomes Guinevere’s love interest—I think every reader will be surprised by this plot twist—it isn’t Lancelot or Arthur who captures Guinevere’s heart. The shocking Beltane scene in Mists also influences the Beltane scene in this novel, but again, Evelina makes surprising choices in how she depicts it, including Guinevere’s involvement in the rituals.

The novel moves forward when Guinevere returns home to find her father greatly changed and herself disinherited. While she thought, as his only child, she would inherit her father’s throne, he has now decided it will go to her male cousin. Then, so Guinevere can learn proper Christian ways, her father also decides to send her to live at King Pellinore’s court, where she meets two other young ladies, Pellinore’s daughter, Elaine, and his ward, Isolde, heir to the Irish throne. Despite her newfound friends, Guinevere finds life with Pellinore’s family—especially his cruel wife Lyonesse—far from pleasant.

Overall, I found the entire plot refreshing—it is familiar, yet original, bringing together many well-known characters and placing them in new relationships to each other, and then developing those relationships in unexpected ways. At the same time, Evelina has clearly done her research and uses it to determine other relationships among characters. For example, King Lot is married to Arthur’s half-sister, Ana, a character usually written out of modern novels in favor of Morgan le Fay or Morgause, but Ana actually dates back to Geoffrey of Monmouth and has more historical clout, therefore, as Arthur’s sister. As for Morgan, she is an orphan whose origins are unknown—though I suspect we’ll find out she’s Arthur’s sister in a future book. Evelina also draws on Geoffrey of Monmouth in depicting the “Kingmaker” comet in the novel that prophesies the birth of a great king.

Hopefully, I don’t give too much away by saying that at the end of the novel, King Arthur makes his appearance and claims Guinevere for his future wife. Of course, she has to marry him—her situation as well as the literary tradition demand it—but given that she already loves another man, I’m sure we’re in for some more interesting plot twists in the future novels. The second novel will be out later this spring and the third novel of this trilogy will be published in 2017. I suggest watching for both of them after you read this one. I read Daughter of Destiny in two days, almost unable to put it down. Evelina’s writing style is visual and smooth, so it is a pleasure to read; I felt taken back to the Arthurian time without being weighed down by too much detail or historical facts. I felt like I was living the story, rather than reading it, and that’s how a good writer should make her reader feel. I’m grateful for any chance I get to live in Camelot, so I thank Evelina for a pleasant time there.

For more information about Nicole Evelina and Daughter of Destiny, visit her website at www.NicoleEvelina.com

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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.