In Winter’s Shadow
The third volume of Bradshaw’s Arthurian trilogy (originally published in 1981) is narrated by Gwynhwyfar, wife of King Arthur Pendragon, and is set during the final years of Arthur’s reign. Gwynhwyfar is a capable queen, trusted by all who serve her, but she fears the threat of Arthur’s power-hungry illegitimate son, Medraut. When her attempt to poison Medraut is foiled, Gwynhwyfar’s marriage begins to suffer, and she finds solace in the arms of Arthur’s loyal warrior Bedwyr. Their forbidden affair leads to further intrigue and their eventual banishment from their beloved kingdom – but Gwynhwyfar uses her wits and her wisdom to come to Arthur’s aid when he is most in need.
Though there are certainly elements of fantasy in Bradshaw’s retelling of this familiar tale, realism reigns supreme. The Arthur/Gwynhwyfar/Bedwyr love triangle is a portrait of a marriage unraveling over time and a woman caught between the comfort of a lifelong partnership and the passion of a new lover. Both Gwalchmai and Rhys, the primary characters in the two earlier novels of the trilogy, play important roles in this final novel, and the introduction of a new character, Gwyn, helps connect the three novels even further. Full of longing, betrayal, intrigue, and reconciliation, Gwynhwyfar’s tale is a rich, rewarding read.