Rose is an Australian scholar, conducting research in present-day Paris, who discovers the Chantilly manuscript–the adventures of two magically-inclined young women from the Middle Ages who are trying to save the world from evil. Rose becomes obsessed with translating the manuscript and regularly sends pages of the footnoted translation to her mother. The accompanying letters detail Rose’s emotional status as she deals with her love life, siblings, and a family crisis from afar. These letters alternate with portions of the manuscript.
Dr. Gillian Polack’s medieval expertise is evident as aspects of Arthurian legend are worked into Ailinn and Guenloie’s story. Unfortunately, the translation portion of the novel suffers from poor writing that seems to be a convention used to convey the feeling of a medieval text. The simple sentence structure, lack of dialog, and an overuse of passive verb tenses are combined with inconsistent and flat characters. For example, when Guenloie loses the cherished harp she uses to spin spells of protection, she inexplicably shrugs it off as inconsequential. The footnotes sprinkled throughout the text also hinder the suspension of disbelief that is crucial for pleasure reading. Rose’s quirky letters, however, prove entertaining.
This book is more suited for fantasy fans than Arthurian romance devotees, and all should be warned that the uneven writing style may become intrusive.