Merrimon Book Reviews

From Medieval Book Reviews
Fate of Camelot
Fate of Camelot by Cynthia Breeding
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. 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 find particular appeal to Arthurian junkies, especially those versed in the medieval Arthurian literary traditions. 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), giving her story both a historical and magical atmosphere.

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 many medieval versions, 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. 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 obsessively focused on the concept of chastity that women can only be seen as the enemy. 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 found in 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 deep friendship between Arthur and Lancelot seen in Malory's Arthurian tales becomes even more pronounced. Cynthia Breeding is more faithful to the medieval Arthurian tradition than a glamorized Hollywood version. She does not gloss over the difficulties of the 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. Some modern readers might be thrown by her narrative structure just because it is more authentic to the period than the style of modern romance, but for me, it was part and parcel of the brilliance of this book. My enjoyment of Cynthia Breeding's FATE OF CAMELOT was heavily influenced by my previous reading history in medieval Arthurian romance. I do not believe a reader has to have this reading background to enjoy this story. Readers versed in the the medieval traditions, however, will discover a special delight in the more subtle nuances of this book, appreciating the author's impeccable attention to the source material and her fictional imagination.

Publisher: Highland Press (July 2008)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Medieval Book Reviews
Merrimon Book Reviews

Custom Search

Copyright Merrimon Crawford  2008  All Rights Reserved