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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Prelude to Camelot by Cynthia Breeding

Prelude to Camelot by Cynthia Breeding
Publisher: Highland Press
Genre: Paranormal, Historical
Length: Full (199 pages)
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 4 Books
Reviewed by Snapdragon


Arthur has no idea of who is father is, only that he must fight--when he's not chasing women--to save Britain from the Saxons.


Fiercely independent, Gwenhwyfar is determined to rule Cameliard free of any man's yoke.


Lancelot's strength in battle equals Arthur's, as does his prowess in bed...a competition that will one day determine the destiny and fate of Camelot.

Beautifully written, 'Prelude to Camelot' is set largely before many of the best-known events of the round table. It does start with Uther's well-known pursuit of Ygraine; but motives, at least for some, are far different than what we have come to expect. All the usual, royal medieval trappings of the legend are much in evidence.

From the first, the Faerie world - and Faerie magic - have an impact on the human world. From the foggy dragon's breathe that sits over the land to the intervention of Astala and Morgana, magic reaches out to change the destiny of a people. It's a little disappointing that the characters bringing exceptional powers to the story become harsher or more aloof as the story goes on. However, one of the best points is that we never forget the underlying purpose here; to protect the lands and people from invaders. This central motivation, so vital to maintaining the sense of worth and value in their struggles, is too often lost in the complexities of the story, and amid the many different characters. Here, however, the central need of the land is never far from our minds. The dangerous Picts seem ever-present.

Arthur the sympathetic protagonist is introduced as a boy. He is pretty much as we expect, a loyal friend and then a competent soldier. He is quite three-dimensional though, and allowed to exhibit the odd human failings. For example, he may wish to pounce on the delectable Salome, and he does sleep with her, but he is gentle, and shows concern for her.

Later, more of the famously notable characters recieve greater attention, but in the early chapters, some of the lesser known really rise to the fore. Especially engaging are some of the secondary characters, who in Breeding's work rise to become far more three dimensional than in most, and contribute more to the tale than we have come to expect. Ceridwen herself as well as Viviane and Niniane visit these pages like old friends. Owain is so himself he might have stepped from any other pages, while Gerient is more than anyone has ever proposed; genuine and a hero in his own right. And then the all important 'Lancelot,'Lancer here, arrives and in his way, outshines Arthur. Gwen is far less a lofty queen than a real human too. Breeding has simply done an exceptional job on a bunch of well-known and possibly over-used characters.

The danger of meddling with a loved favorite tale, especially one told and re-told as much as this one, is that readers may be bored by a revisit, or in the event of a whole different take, dislike the changes or perspective. All those sorts of issues are handily avoided here. The fresh characters offer enough of a persuasive perspective, while story essentials meet the all requirements fans of the Camelot story have come to expect. If it does not generate great enthusiasm, it is perhaps because it dares not step too far from the expected path. However, The freshness of characters and retake on some motivations certainly bring a new perspective to an old story. The delicate additions of magical forces at work - and at work largely for the good - is a wonderful bonus. This is probably not the finest Arthurian work we'll ever read, but it is a nice addition to the realm.