Kingdom of Summer

Written by Gillian Bradshaw
Review by Nanette Donohue

Sir Gawain is one of the best-known figures in the legend of King Arthur, and Bradshaw brings him to life as Gwalchmai, a larger-than-life hero. Gwalchmai’s tale is told through the eyes of Rhys, a young peasant. Rhys has always dreamed of a warrior’s life, and when an injured Gwalchmai arrives at his family’s farm, Rhys seizes the opportunity to travel with him on his return to Camlann, Arthur’s great fortress. Gwalchmai is on a quest to find Elidan, the woman he loves, so he can atone for his wrongdoings. Reaching Elidan is not so easy—she does not wish to be found, and many obstacles stand in Gwalchmai’s way, including his own mother, the legendary witch Morgawse. Blended with Gwalchmai’s story is the story of Rhys’s coming-of-age in the shadow of a great warrior who becomes his mentor and friend.

This reprint of the second volume of Bradshaw’s Arthurian trilogy, originally published in 1981, is a welcome re-addition to the world of Arthurian fiction. Though it is part of a trilogy, it is a stand-alone story, and no prior knowledge of Arthurian legend is necessary. The key social conflict of this era was between Christianity and paganism, and Bradshaw captures this effectively in the battle between Gwalchmai, a Christian convert, and his mother Morgawse, a staunch believer in the old ways. The combination of action, adventure, romance, and history make Kingdom of Summer an enjoyable, balanced, fast-paced Arthurian novel with broad appeal.