Child of the Northern Spring
The story of Arthur and Guinevere has been told and retold numerous times, but this first volume of Woolley’s Guinevere trilogy, originally published in 1987, was one of the first to tell the tale from the Queen’s perspective. As the daughter of Leodegrance, King of Rheged, Guinevere is raised in relative comfort and luxury, and is educated in both the Old and the New Ways. As Gwen comes of age, suitors begin calling, and among them is the new High King of Britain, Arthur. Guinevere is in no hurry to marry, and even considers fleeing to avoid marriage, but once she meets her prospective husband she recognizes that theirs will be a marriage between equals – and, quite possibly, a love match.
Readers who avoid Arthurian stories because of the preponderance of magic and mysticism will find Woolley’s realistic approach refreshing. She captures the struggles that plagued Arthurian Britain – the conflict between the followers of the old Pagan ways and the early Christians; the battles over the borders of the small kingdoms that made up early Britain; and the feuds between warring factions looking to gain a foothold. Guinevere is presented realistically as a young woman raised to the crown and well aware of all that comes with the life of a 6th-century British queen. Well-educated and wise beyond her years, she comes to Arthur prepared to help him rule, and unconcerned with the fripperies that wealth can bring. Her relationships with the women around her, including Brigit, her friend and foster sister, as well as her various servants, illuminate the often-hidden lives of women of this era. This is quality storytelling that has stood the test of time, and I look forward to seeing the other two volumes in this trilogy back in print.