In this retelling of the ancient tale of Trystan and Isolde, Elliot mines a beloved tale stripped of modern interpretation, a novel filled with myth, the voices of the past, and a very real battle to control a magical land with savage warfare.
Arthur has passed into legend in Britain, bards singing of great battles and glory. After the death of her husband, the High King Constantine, Isolde is helpless to defend herself or her kingdom. When the council meets to elect the next High King, it is clear that the infamous Lord Marche has planned long for this moment, annihilating any competition.
That he has made a pact with the invading Saxons is unknown by his fellow kings; the kingdoms must unite to fight the enemy at the border. Marche becomes High King, claiming the widowed Isolde for wife. And in a nearby prison, a man, neither Saxon nor British, languishes, tended by a nurturing Isolde who has no idea of this man’s importance in her future.
Many historical novels testify to the precarious conditions of women in a male-dominated society, whether in the mythic tales of ancient lands or the European courts of powerful kings. To be a woman is to be chattel, valuable in furthering alliances but literally powerless, a pawn of fortune.
In Isolde’s world, the old ways are even more brutal, such a woman defenseless without a male protector of her name and honor. Never is Isolde in more danger than when her husband is slain; it is inevitable that Marche will seize her to solidify his power base. And should she balk - or run away - the alternative is an accusation of witchcraft and certain death. Isolde is as helpless as a female slave, albeit more finely dressed.
In this first of a trilogy, the story of Trystan and Isolde begins, from their first encounter in desperate circumstances, Trystan imprisoned and Isolde about to be wed to the brutal, calculating Marche. In an adventure that draws on history and myth, the pair begin a journey fraught with danger to escape Marche and save Isolde’s kingdom from the Saxon onslaught, betrayal and mistrust shadowing every opportunity, every decision.
As surely as Elliott brings to life the voices of Isolde’s dead grandmother, Morgan, and the girl’s mother, Gwynefar, Isolde and Trystan rise from the ashes of the past, treading once more a troubled world where danger lurks at every turn and love blooms in spite of chaos. The land of myth is real for a time as these memorable characters reach across the centuries in a riveting and dramatic tale of love and war.