Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review: Kingdom of Summer

Kingdom of Summer (Down the Long Wind - Book 2) by Gillian Bradshaw

Publication Date: September 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Inc.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: Paperback, 352pp
ISBN-13: 9781402240720
ISBN: 1402240724

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks)

Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Gillian Bradshaw on the WEB: website



Armed with his magical sword and otherworldly horse, Gwalchmai proves himself the most feared and faithful warrior of Arthur's noble followers. But while defending the kingdom, he commits a grave offense against the woman he loves, leading her to disappear from his life and haunt his memories.

With his trusted servant, Rhys, a commonsense peasant, Gwalchmai tries to find her in the Kingdom of Summer, where Arthur has sent him. But an unexpected and most malevolent force of evil and darkness is loose - that of his mother, the witch-queen Morgawse - and Gwalchmai finds that the secrets of his past may deny him peace...

In the second book of Gillian Bradshaw's critically acclaimed trilogy, Sir Gwain comes to life as Gwalchmai, startlingly human yet fantastically heroic. 


The second book in Gillian Bradshaw's Arthurian trilogy, Kingdom of Summer, picks ups where Hawk of May left off, with the continuing journey of Gwalchmai (Gwain) one of Arthur's most formidable and trustworthy knights. Bradshaw's unique blend of historical fiction and fantasy will appeal to fans across many genres. This novel is first and foremost an adventure tale, that will have fans wondering just what will happen next.

At the end of the first book in the series Gwalchmai has pledged his allegiance to Arthur and now in book two he has leave from Arthur to pursue a quest of his own. While he was defending the kingdom he commits an offense against the woman he loves. Now he must find her and make amends in the kingdom of summer where Arthur has sent him. With the help of a young farmer named Rhys who becomes his servant he attempts to find Elidan, but his mother the witch-queen Morgawse is brewing trouble of her own. 

This book is a rare blend of history and fantasy. As many of you know I have long been a fan of anything relating to the legend of King Arthur and his knights. I was extremely excited when I was able to review Hawk of May and now the second book in Gillian Bradshaw's trilogy based on Sir Gwain. Kingdom of Summer was originally published over thirty years ago and has been re-released to a new audience. Bradshaw's story makes Arthur a secondary character and Gwalchmai or Gwain the hero of the tale. 

I was interested to see how Bradshaw would accommodate the magical elements of the Arthurian legend and I was happy to see that she used those elements but did not make them the focal point of the story. Gwalchmai has a magical sword and an otherworldly horse, but he primarily relies on his own wits and resources to get him into and out of most scraps. Though the Otherworld is mentioned, talk of Merlin is noticeably absent and I think the author was trying to draw attention to the man, Gwalchmai and not the magic in this book. I liked that, because a lot of authors rely heavily on magic to pull off a novel about Arthur and Bradshaw didn't seem to need that crutch.

I liked the fact that the author used the old Celtic names like Gwalchmai instead of the updated names we are most usually familiar with. Several of the players in Arthur's court are mentioned and use the Celtic names as well. There is a large cast of characters and it may be a little hard to keep up with who is who since the names are slightly different, but I think it added to the overall feel of the book. Once I equated each name with a person I knew from my own experiences with Arthurian legends I was able to understand it easily. For readers who not as well acquainted with the legends this may be somewhat confusing, but I thought it added a spark of authenticity to the book. 

The overall plot of the book was interesting and I thought Bradshaw did a wonderful job of conveying to readers the stark differences between the light that Gwalchmai represented and the evil darkness his mother Morgawse represented. This story becomes a battle of good vs. evil and I thought the author illustrated it well. It is not a long book or one that is difficult to understand. Readers will enjoy viewing Arthur from the sidelines and not as the main character. It gives a different perspective on him. I also liked that author changed from Gwalchmai's point of view in this book to the POV of Rhys, his servant. This allows readers to also see a different side of Gwalchmai as well. 

I recommend this one to fans of the Arthurian legends and those who want to learn more about Gwain. This series is a wonderful re-telling that goes in a new and original direction. Though originally published over thirty years ago, it comes across as fresh and full of potential. I look forward to the re-release of the last book in the series as well. If you haven't looked into the legends of Arthur this series may a good start for new readers. 

Kingdom of Summer is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Gillian Bradshaw was born in Falls Church, Virginia, and graduated from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for Hawk of May. She is the author of twenty-five other novels.

1 comment:

Susan (Reading World) said...

I love Arthurian tales and this sounds like a good one. I'll look for it! Thanks for the review.