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So, [personal profile] sdn was right. ([personal profile] sdn is always right?)

([personal profile] adelynne Apr. 30th, 2009 11:47 pm)
At Readercon almost two years ago, [livejournal.com profile] sdn pulled me over after a panel and said "You like Megan Whalen Turner? Megan loves Elizabeth Wein. You should read Elizabeth Wein." (Henceforth: [livejournal.com profile] eegatland.) Ok, I said.

However, some big things happened in my life between then and, oh, December 2008. It didn't occur to me to bother finding more things to do. Until suddenly, it did. I don't quite remember what set me off, though it might have been a review that specifically discussed Medraut, but I went looking for The Winter Prince with a passion. Upon learning that it was out of print I went about scouring websites until I found a used copy at bn.com. I eagerly awaited its arrival, and hid away upstairs at my grandmother-in-law's house on Christmas Day reading it.

I'm not a huge fan of Arthurian work. Honestly, it never presented archetypes that I could believe in, that I could root for. Arthur was too simple, a boy scout with his only flaw was allowing himself to be seduced by his sister/aunt. Or something. 'Cause G-d knows he couldn't have been an active participant, there. Guinevere always seemed like a simpering idiot to me. The whole love triangle made me sick - if I can't believe that anyone would want the main object of affection I am really unlikely to buy it. Perhaps needless to say, this book had a lot to do to make me enjoy it.

Reader, I enjoyed it. The idea of a Guinevere (or, as she's known here, Ginevra) who is a talented mapmaker, healer, and fluent in three languages was refreshing. This woman wasn't a symbol of courtly love or whatever, she was a partner for a king and a kind mother figure for Medraut (our Mordred) as well as her own children. In fact, the women in this book were incredibly refreshing. Even Morgause. Especially Morgause.

It is literally impossible to discuss the rest of the series in any kind of detail without spoiling this book. Which is a shame, because the rest of the series is even better. The point of view shifts from Medraut to his half-sister Goewin in the second book, A Coalition of Lions, and the action moves from Britain to the African nation of Aksum (from which Medraut had returned at the start of The Winter Prince). My poor planning and inadequate patience (the second book is also out of print) meant that I read the third book, The Sunbird, second. Telemakos, an Aksumite child we meet in the first chapter of A Coalition of Lions is the main protagonist of The Sunbird and the last two novels - collectively known as "The Mark of Solomon" books. I haven't yet read the last two (a combination of running out of time and money), but I am looking forward to doing so.

It's a fascinating series, partly because it takes its Arthurian origins and moves them. Partly because of the way it deals with duty, loyalty, love, and family. Medraut, in the first book, is widely acknowledged - even by Artos (Arthur, naturally) - as the one who should be left to rule Britain. Goewin - as loyal as she is to her twin, Lleu, who is Artos's acknowledged heir - openly discusses how she does not trust her brother not to plunge the kingdom her father built into ruin. But everyone - including Medraut - also understands his or her part and duty. Goewin is, perhaps, so fascinating in that she is the mirror of Morgause. She is the fiercely intelligent woman who cannot rule because less intelligent men seek to diminish her power. She is wise enough to see the turns that lead down the darker path, but not wise enough to avoid them entirely.

I was expecting to find Medraut a fascinating character - the reading I'd done prior to getting the book led me to expect it. I knew he would be a character to capture my imagination - gifted, tortured, vain and humble, yearning for acceptance and love. But I didn't expect the world that sprang up around him - full of characters that moved like true actors in the story - with their own agendas that were not always convenient and never simple. The story does not end where the book does - it keeps flying, and leaves you, as the reader, trailing in its wake, trying to catch up. Even as the characters move countries and continents, their motivations, their pain and their purpose remain rooted in how they were when we met them. It's fascinating, and a joy to read a story that develops this way.

P.S.: [livejournal.com profile] eegatland and her kids have been doing a PlayMobil version of The Winter Prince over here.
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