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Gillian [Marucha] Bradshaw (1956 - )

Kingdom of Summer
Simon and Schuster, 1981


After reading Hawk of May, I was so enchanted with Bradshaw's storytelling that I actually bought the second book of the Gawain trilogy, Kingdom of Summer, in the hardcover edition instead of waiting for the paperback. This edition does not include any explanation of sources, but it does have a map of southwest Britain, ca. 500 C.E., prior to the first chapter. Bradshaw's grasp of the sub-Roman British history and culture remains sketchy, and her decision to leave behind most of her literary sources and stick to what she does best--storytelling--was a wise one. In Kingdom of Summer Bradshaw makes the bold decision (for the time in which the book was written) to abandon Gwalchmai (Gawain) as the narrator and, instead, to let his squire, Rhys ap Sion, tell the tale. The choice of narrator provides much of the charm in this yarn of love gone awry. While serving as Arthur's ambassador to a rival nation, Gwalchmai falls in love with the princess Elidan. When his "battle madness" overcomes him during a fight with her brother, however, Gwalchmai inadvertently slays the young man, earning the princess's eternal hatred. Broken-hearted, and completely oblivious to the fact that he had managed to impregnate the princess, Gwalchmai continues to do Arthur's bidding, defending their beloved Camlann against all enemies. Bradshaw's storytelling in Kingdom of Summer is tighter and more mature than her effort in Hawk of May, yet the text lacks none of the energy that her writing displayed in the first book of the trilogy. As Bradshaw moves further away from her sources, her narration becomes more innovative and engaging. The result is that Kingdom of Summer is one of those rare cases where the second book in a trilogy is actually better than the first. - Linda A. Malcor 10/99

- Linda A. Malcor, 10/1/1999

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