Author: Kim Headlee
Format: Paperback and eBook
Publisher: Lucky Bat Books
Genre: Historical Fiction / Fantasy
Series: The Dragon’s Dove Chronicles
Best Read in Order: yes
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About the Book:
Gyanhumara “Gyan” nic Hymar is a Caledonian chieftainess by birth, a warrior and leader of warriors by training, and she is betrothed to Urien map Dumarec, a son of her clan’s deadliest enemy, by right of Arthur the Pendragon’s conquest of her people. For the sake of peace, Gyan is willing to sacrifice everything…perhaps even her very life, if her foreboding about Urien proves true.
Arthur map Uther is the bastard son of two worlds, Roman by his father and Brytoni by his mother. Denied hereditary rulership by the elders of Chieftainess Ygraine’s clan, Arthur has followed Uther’s path to become Dux Britanniarum, the Pendragon: supreme commander of the northern Brytoni army. The Caledonians, Scots, Saxons, and Angles keep him too busy to dwell upon his loneliness…most of the time.
When Gyan and Arthur meet, each recognize within the other their soul’s mate. The treaty has preserved Gyan’s ancient right to marry any man, providing he is a Brytoni nobleman—but Arthur does not qualify. And the ambitious Urien, Arthur’s greatest political rival, shall not be so easily denied. If Gyan and Arthur cannot prevent Urien from plunging the Caledonians and Brytons back into war, their love will be doomed to remain unfulfilled forever.
A reworking of Arthurian legend unlike any I have ever read, Headlee has managed to incorporate research, a compelling story and characters that breathe life into their ancient traditions. Starting with Gyanhumara, a chieftaness of the Picts: she was delightfully unlike the common misrepresentation of the women of the time. Fiercely loyal, intelligent and highly trained as a warrior in her own right, Gyan’s exuberance and curiosity are only tempered by the weight of her clan’s expectations and safety. We get to spend much time with Gyan – in fact she is the primary narrator of the story,, and she quickly will become a favorite character: her personality and good heart are that apparent.
Urien is less likable; in fact he is very much like a spoilt child with a bad temper. He works hard to mask his true disdain for Gyan’s people and family, condescending and jealously possessive. His true grasping for power and control, and his lack of tolerance for those he considers beneath him all hint to an increase in his treacherous and even traitorous behavior is coming.
Arthur is not perfect, but a leader who truly cares for his people: although still early in his rise to power, the threats are coming from all angles – the wars for the unification of Briton are in their early stages, and clans, nationalities and marriage beds have created several threats to his rule.
Until these three meet, the story is quietly moving forward as it incorporates a side story of the growing movement of Christianity within the Brytons and Gyan’s fascination with the religion after feeling her own gods failing her. Exploring traditions, utilizing languages that include Manx, Gaelic and Latin as well as a combination of the three, presents these early clans as separate entities, steeped in their own traditions and fiercely independent. The “feel” of the story and the language used to describe the scenes present lovely word pictures that enhance the story and present each reader with a clear understanding of the ‘look’ of the characters.
Other secondary characters are well introduced and presented, with development that ranges from completely filled out to just outlined with a sense that their presence will increase for good or bad further on. Nearly everyone is familiar, at least in a basic sense, of the legends that surround Arthur, this book is taking them to a different space and giving the characters a depth and life that I haven’t seen in other works. I will say that after starting a bit slowly the need to know more of the story took over and the book moved quite quickly. For the first in a series, the ending was perfectly positioned and has me anxious to read the next book.
I received an eBook copy from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
About the Author:
Kim Headlee lives on a farm in southwestern Virginia with her family, cats, goats, and assorted wildlife. People & creatures come and go, but the cave and the 250-year-old house ruins — the latter having been occupied as recently as the mid-20th century — seem to be sticking around for a while yet.
Kim is a Seattle native (when she used to live in the Metro DC area, she loved telling people she was from “the other Washington”) and a direct descendent of 20th century Russian nobility. Her grandmother was a childhood friend of the doomed Grand Duchess Anastasia, and the romantic yet tragic story of how Lydia escaped Communist Russia with the aid of her American husband will most certainly one day fuel one of Kim’s novels. Another novel in the queue will involve her husband’s ancestor, the 7th-century proto-Viking king of the Swedish colony in Russia.