The Maid of the White Hands

Written by Rosalind Miles
Review by Sarah Johnson

Ten years have passed since Isolde, daughter of the Queen of Ireland, fell in love with Tristan of Lyonesse, her husband’s nephew. Now, after her mother’s death, Isolde has become queen at last. Rebellion brews among the Irish knights, many of whom conspire to abandon the Mother-right and unite the country under a self-made king. Meanwhile Isolde’s husband, the buffoonish King Mark of Cornwall, decides to take revenge on the amorous pair; though he doesn’t want Isolde for himself, he hates to be thought of as a fool. When Tristan is wounded in battle, Mark sends him to Isolde of France, a renowned healer who is the Irish queen’s younger namesake. The other Isolde, called Blanche for her white hands, has loved Tristan from afar for years and schemes to make him her husband, even knowing that he loves another. Readers who find the well-known Tristan and Isolde legend too melancholy for their taste will enjoy the fifth in Miles’ series of novels of strong Celtic women, which is based in Irish tradition. The story is smoothly told, and the unusual ending, though bittersweet, turns the usual sob story of a legend into a satisfying tale of love, betrayal, and redemption.