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Fate of Camelot
by Cynthia Breeding
   A treat for medieval Arthurian junkies

Cynthia Breeding's FATE OF CAMELOT focuses on the later days of Camelot: the Grail Quest and King Arthur's healing at Avalon. Cynthia Breeding reshapes the medieval Arthurian texts by returning to the medieval texts themselves, history and modern scholarship. Using these as a springboard for her imaginative vision of the last days, Cynthia Breeding presents a vision of the more mysterious aspects of the Arthurian legends as she incorporates both the pagan and Christian elements. If a reader wants a romanticized and simplified Hollywood version of Camelot, readers should turn elsewhere than the tales of Cynthia Breeding. On the other hand, FATE OF CAMELOT will appeal to Arthurian junkies, especially those versed in the medieval Arthurian literary traditions. FATE OF CAMELOT is closer to the term roman arthurien than the modern romance tradition. Cynthia Breeding incorporates the magical paranormal into FATE OF CAMELOT and yet her details are so grounded in the medieval tradition, both of Arthurian romance as well as the chronicle tradition (medieval historical writings), as seen in Geoffrey of Monmouth etc, giving her story both a historical and magical atmosphere.

FATE OF CAMELOT opens with Arthur's trip to Avalon. As his queen and a woman devoted to the realm of Camelot, Gwenhwyfar accompanies Arthur, choosing to stand by his side despite the risks to herself and her love for Lancelot. Once on Avalon, she may never be able to see Lancelot once Arthur is healed and returns to Camelot. Time on Avalon is not in direct proportion to the years outside so that one day in Avalon encompasses more time in the history of Camelot. Furthermore, Avalon is surrounded by the ever-shifting Land of Faerie, a realm that Morgan le Fey and Medraut (Mordred) use to their own ends. Lifelike visions of Lancelot trouble her, reminding her of the deep love she has for her champion knight. When Gwenhwyfar attempts to pass through the Land of Faerie, Cernunnos, god of the Wild Hunt, captures Gwenhwyfar, intending to keep her as his consort. Enraged at her abduction, Lancelot plans to get her back but Morgan Le Fey once more schemes against them. Will he be able to save her?

Meanwhile, back in the realm of Camelot, Galahad and Peredur seek the mysterious Grail, the one thing that might bring healing to the kingdom and the land. FATE of CAMELOT expands upon some of the less developed threads in the medieval texts, giving readers the opportunity to revisit lesser known characters with stories and details that fill in the gaps. Readers will recognize the concept of the Fisher King, Pelles, and the Grail Maiden. The brilliance of Cynthia Breeding's writing in FATE OF CAMELOT truly shines in her handling of the Grail Quest. By shifting the placement of the Quest within the Arthurian time line, the quest makes sense. In Thomas Malory's medieval version, the quest seems out of place and even as a distraction from the kingdom which eventually leads to the downfall of Camelot. In Cynthia Breeding's version, the Quest occurs within the context of healing, both individual and political. Cynthia Breeding's portrait of Galahad is one of the finest moments in this novel. Like Malory, she softens the highly misogynist tone found in the French Vulgate cycle in La Queste del Saint Graal, a text so obsessively focused on the concept of chastity that scholars assume it was written by a cleric. Like Malory, Cynthia Breeding focuses on the relationship of Galahad to his father Lancelot. Cynthia Breeding explores this relationship even more deeply by taking readers into the family relationships, an element that uses the modern romance tradition to shed light on the medieval traditions. Cynthia Breeding does not gloss over the misogyny of the Old French version but rather she presents readers with a context that makes Galahad a more fully developed character.

In FATE OF CAMELOT, Cynthia Breeding develops the Arthur-Lancelot- Gwenhwyfar relationship so well developed in her book CAMELOT'S DESTINY. In many Arthurian tales, Guinevere is a rather flat character. Cynthia Breeding gives her a depth of character as the reader sees both her love for Lancelot and her devotion to the realm as its queen. The reader feels the pull she experiences between both men. In addition, the reader feels more of the deep friendship between Arthur and Lancelot seen in Malory's Arthurian tales. In this area, Cynthia Breeding is more faithful to the medieval Arthurian tradition than a glamorized Hollywood version. She does not gloss over the difficulties of Gwenhwyfar's role as queen and as woman but rather develops them to give the reader a vision of a woman who lives her role as queen and lover with all that she is.

In her narrative style, Cynthia Breeding pays homage to the medieval texts with a style characterized by dialogue and seemingly episodic (but not unrelated) as stories unfold together and yet different elements come together chronologically and thematically.  In many ways, I felt like I was reading a medieval story itself and in style, I find it close to Malory himself... but a Malory who is not a man but a woman, with a woman's insights (oh how feminist medieval scholars all craved to hear a woman telling this story!). FATE OF CAMELOT combines both the Christian and pagan elements in proper proportion to create a tale that does not avoid the French cleric author's vilification of women but rather speaks back to it by incorporating it within the whole context. Some modern readers might be thrown by her narrative structure just because it is so authentic to the period but for me, it was part and parcel of the brilliance of this book.

More personal details:
My enjoyment of Cynthia Breeding's FATE OF CAMELOT was heavily influenced by my previous reading history. I spent 10 years in graduate school studying Medieval literature exclusively (in addition to literary theory/criticism). My specialty and planned dissertation topic was Arthurian romance (Sir Thomas Malory and an unpublished French Arthurian manuscript).  I do not believe a reader has to have this reading background to enjoy this story but I do think that readers versed in the medieval traditions will discover a special delight in the subtle nuances of this book, appreciating the author's impeccable attention to the source material and the fictional imagination she adds. Unlike her previous romances, FATE OF CAMELOT was published by a small press. While this book may not appeal to the mass market of romance readers (the market for her previous books), I feel like the move to a smaller press has allowed her more freedom to develop her authentic vision of Arthurian romance. If you are an Arthurian junkie like me, FATE OF CAMELOT marks Cynthia Breeding as an author to watch with increasing interest. It seems to me as if this book marks a transition of the author from writing for a modern romance audience to more of a fiction/fantasy/Arthurian audience.

Book Description
When a god desires a mortal queen...        Can her champion save her from her fate?
Accompanied by Gwenhwyfar, King Arthur is healed on the holy isle of Avalon.  But Avalon is surrounded by the ever-shifting Land of Faerie.  When Myrddin attempts to pass them through, Cernunnos, god of the Wild Hunt, captures Gwenhwyfar, intending to keep her as his consort.
Enraged that Gwenhwyfar has been abducted, Lancelot swears he will bring her back.  A vision of the Holy Grail allows him to find the portal to Faerie, but Morgan le Fey has other desgns for him.
Will Lancelot's love for Gwenhwyfar be strong enough to endure in a world where Time is distorted and illusion reigns?

Fate of Camelot

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