Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit – Mercedes Lackey

Read for the Once Upon a Time VII Reading Challenge.

For Mercedes Lackey’s stab at the Arthurian legend, she was inspired by a passage that spoke of three queens named Gwenhwyfar (her sources are in the Afterword, which is interesting reading).    When you think about the various stories surrounding Arthur’s queen, the various kidnappings, runnings away, potential children, etc, it actually makes a certain amount of sense that there was more than one woman involved with Arthur.

This book is the story of the third Gwenhwyfar, the daughter of one of the border kings subject to Arthur.   She’s just a child when Arthur marries the first Gwenhwyfar.   Living on the border, her family follows the old religion, and it’s clear that Gwen has been blessed by the goddess Epona, and so she becomes a warrior.     Gwen has a younger sister who could be her twin (she’s such in her shadow that she’s called Little Gwen, and her true birth name has been forgotten).    Little Gwen is completely opposite to her sister, preferring the world of women, and she’s eventually fostered out to the king’s sister, Anna Morgause.     Anna is of course the mother of Medraut, the bastard son of the king.

The first two thirds of the book have little to do with Arthur, and instead are the family story of this Gwenhwyfar, and how she becomes  a renowned warrior.     Lancelin is introduced in the middle third, but the action is still far from Celliwig (Camelot).     I really enjoyed this part of the story – Gwen’s family, and her life in a border kingdom, are interestingly drawn.

The third part of the story, in which we finally meet Arthur (when Gwen is made his third wife), was not as good.    It’s a very standard Guinevere story, but the rest of the book has been about building up this warrior woman, and having her sacrifice all of that (even though she very well knows that it’s her duty), really rang hollow to me.    Her character changed too much, too willingly.     I was a little disappointed in the ending, which is a shame, because I really enjoyed the rest of the book.    I don’t want to say it was awful, but I can’t say it was one of my favorites.

Once Upon a Time Reading Challenge 3/21/13 – 6/21/13

I’m so excited it’s time for the Once Upon a Time Challenge again.    Last weekend, I went through my TBR bookcase and rearranged things so the challenge themed books (Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology) were most accessible.

As usual, I’ll be doing Quest the First, which is to read at last five books in any or all of the categories.   I’ve got a whole stack waiting to go through, and I’m excited to start.

How I Live Now – Meg Rosoff

Fifteen year old Daisy is sent from New York to the English countryside to live with her cousins, who she’s never met.     She’s just settling into her life there when an Enemy attacks Britain, and the kids are cut off by themselves in their country home.    At first, their life is exciting, but then the war comes to them.

This is the kind of book I often hate – told in a first person, extremely stream of conscious voice.   In this case, the story is so compelling, and the voice makes so much sense because of the circumstances, that I had to keep reading, to find out what ultimately happened to Daisy.    It’s a really fascinating little book – a bit darker than I would have expected for Young Adult, but also a really thought provoking look at the new reality of the kind of war we now could face.

Desert Queen – Janet Wallach

Gertrude Bell lived a life few women could lay a claim to in the turn of the last century.    Coming from a well off family in Britain, she was able to finance explorations into Arabia and Mesopotamia.    And with the knowledge and connections she gained in those trips, she became indispensable to the British government during and after WWI, when the dying Ottoman Empire threw all those territories into play.    She was responsible for the borders of the modern state of Iraq.

Lesson number one from this book: it was a nice to see a woman doing a really important job that you’d think only a man could have done in that period (she was actually an ally of Lawrence of Arabia).    Side lesson: most of the men she dealt with pretty much considered her a man, or at least something other than a normal woman, and she sacrificed any sort of normal family life, so I guess that also goes to show that you pretty much had to be a freak of nature to accomplish such a thing, but hey, it’s still nice to see a woman get ahead.

Lesson number two:  In the Middle East, it really does all come back to oil.   How completely depressing is that?    I’ve definitely got a better understanding of the history of what’s going on over there, and how it’s effecting things even today, and I can’t say I have any better a feeling of it ever being resolved.

Lesson number three: I need to read more non fiction.     This book was a complete slog (I read two other books while reading this one, because I needed breaks).    I don’t know if my tolerance for non fiction is down, or if it was this book.    I think I need to read some more to see if I can pinpoint that.

Knitting Notes

Pattern: Oddity Mitts by Mia Heikkinen
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy in the Goodluck Jade Colorway
Needles: Size 2 DPNs

In the further quest to use up sock yarn scraps, I’ve done another pair of Oddity mitts.   I really like this pattern – the cable is a lot of fun to make.

I also do enjoy this yarn, and was able to get three hexipuffs out of it as well.

Charity Girl – Georgette Heyer

This book definitely fell into the overly fluffy side of Heyer’s oeuvre.    In it, we find the handsome Viscount Desford, who seems to like to run around the countryside visiting people, attending a ball while visiting his aunt.    The ball was thrown to showcase the eldest daughter of the house, but Desford happens to meet the poor cousin, who’s been taken in because her father is dead.    Being a charity case, her aunt and cousins have been shamelessly abusing her – making her run errands, etc, etc.    Have I mentioned her name is Charity?    And so, Cherry (as she prefers to be called) runs away the morning after the ball, and since Desford recognizes her as he drives by in his chaise, on the way to London, takes pity on her, and gives her a ride to London, to her grandfather’s house.     And her grandfather isn’t there.

And thus, Desford gets to run around the country side looking for Cherry’s grandfather.     Yep – that’s the story.    Now, this totally sounds like it should be a love story where Desford falls for Cherry, and on first blush, it sure seems like it should be.    Except Cherry and Desford are so clearly not suited for each other, you spend the whole book hoping that doesn’t happen.

So this book is going straight to the Bookmooch pile.    It’s not terrible, but it’s certainly not good.

Oh, and my edition is from 1970, and the cover is heinous.   Like worse than typical examples from the period heinous (and let’s face it, the 70s were not the finest hour of book cover art).  Sadly, it’s not on Bookmooch, and my scanner is currently down, so I can’t share the pain.