Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit by Mercedes Lackey
Mercedes Lackey has been one of my favourite authors since her debut short story appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s third Swords & Sorceress anthology back in 1986. I own all of the Valdemar books and most of the other novels that she wrote or co-wrote. I had avoided picking up a copy of Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit until my husband found a copy on sale at our local bookstore.
Mercedes Lackey’s interpretation of the classic Arthurian legend is an intriguing one, based on the Welsh Triad theory that there may have actually been three women named Gwenwyfar (Guinevere) as wives to the High King of Britain. The central character of her novel is actually a warrior daughter of King Lleudd Ogrfan Gawr (Ogrfan the Giant). As a tall woman named Jennifer, I was looking forward to a tale of someone who didn’t fit into the traditional female role. Called at an early age to serve the Goddess Epona, protector of horses, and the path of Iron, Gwenwyfar grows as a warrior and a scout who strikes terror into the hearts of raiding Saxons as the White Spirit. When duty demands that she become Arthur’s 3rd wife, only to become entangled with the plottings of his bastard son, Medraut (Mordred) and her feelings for Lancelin (Lancelot) the book races towards a surprising new twist to the familiar tale.
Mercedes Lackey has always been one of those writers who creates vivid, believable characters that draw you deeply into her stories. While I enjoyed this book, I found that it sometimes stumbled as Lackey tried to cram in all the necessary historical details and celtic mythology to flesh out the perspective she’d chosen to take. It lacked the rich flow that permeates the novels set in worlds of her own creation such as Valdemar or the Dragon Jousters. Her talent for believable detail still shines in this novel, but it somehow lacks the smoothness of the Elemental Masters series set in the early 20th century. Perhaps the need to weave in so many key figures from the legends hampered her imagination somewhat. This tale is certainly not as innovative as the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley which I must now go pluck of my bookshelf to read next.
Hardcover format, 401 pages, published in 209 by Daw Books