The High Queen
by Nancy McKenzie
Reviewed by Coral
When it comes to the Arthurian legend, I have to admit that I have my own personal favorites. For me, it's not Arthur, Guinevere or even Lancelot, but the wild boys of Orkney: Gawain, Agravaine, Gaheris, Gareth and Mordred. Bad, good, somewhere in between, it doesn't matter. So, I tend to hate the books where they're poorly written and, sometimes, the ones where they are all at odds with each other, caught up with in-fighting. Of course, I'm not exactly sure I've read a book where all five boys stood together, on the same side, until the end, but I hold out hope.
Wow, long introductory paragraph just to come to the point that, in this book, the brothers once again stand at odds with each other. Which, though I wasn't happy with, I would have dealt with it if the book had been written well enough that it seemed believable. No such luck.
Guinevere is nearly intolerable in this book. She's perfect, didn't you know? Beautiful, kind, forgiving and wise. She's the perfect woman.
I find she's a smug, self-righteous, sanctimonious, hypocritical bitch. I mean, she complains how unfair it is that Arthur can take other women to his bed, while she has to remain the faithful wife, denying herself Lancelot. But what is she doing every night but taking Arthur to her bed, while demanding of Lancelot that he remain the faithful partner, screaming at him each time she learns he's taken his wife Elaine to his bed? I mean sleeping with his wife (a lot less times than Guinevere sleeps with her husband, mind you), the bastard!
And Lancelot! The man has got to learn to control his temper. Both last book and this one, he flies into a rage at every insult directed towards Arthur or Guinevere. Yeah, he's going to make a great king.
The whole Lancelot - Guinevere thing is ridiculous this time round. They're caught, more than once, in a compromising situation - Guinevere's clothes half off - and it's the person who catches them that is supposed to be the scheming evil monster. Here's a thought, if you're sick of being accused of infidelity, save your kissing for a time when you're not in public, or in the kingdom of another man, or surrounded by guards who don't understand the complex relationship you all share. Idiots!
Okay, new ranting topic: the druids. I hated the way they were written in this book, all ready to burn someone at the stake. I thought that was a Christian thing. Plus, since when did the Druids worship this Great Mother character? I thought they worshipped nature. Also, I must once again mention that I have strong doubts about the Great Mother character. We're talking about a Britain that was Celtic, then became Romanized. So, why aren't they worshipping Celtic gods and goddesses, like Andarta or Arianrhod? Or gods worshipped in Rome, like Isis or Ceres? I guess, this one driving Mother Goddess idea makes for nice fiction, but I just don't see any historical evidence past the Sumer urbanization period when city states started developing their own, mostly male led, pantheons.
And then we come to the Saxons. Was it really necessary to emphasize over and over and uncivilized and savage they are? I mean, really. I don't believe that you should ever label any culture as uncivilized. I happen to like the Saxons, and love to read about them in both fiction and history.
Okay, so Fion returns in this book, and is now High King of Ireland. I've mentioned before that classes I took have told me that Ireland never had High Kings. People may have given themselves the title, but it was an empty one. So seriously, if we can remember this for the future: Ireland = no kings!
What was with the crap villains in this book? Morgause, Mogan, Maelgon, the bad seed Orkney twins. None of them had any kind of a plan, or backup plan. They were all jokes, that you knew never really had a chance at succeeding. You know, a little suspense is a good thing. So is a "good villain", one that doesn't fail spectacularly at every attacked launched. Seriously, how the villain is written can sometimes make or break a book.
Can hunting dogs really live to be 25? Seems old for a dog. And, seriously, how old was Guinevere's nurse, Ailsa, by the end of this book? One hundred? Kind of old for the time period.
Just, an awful book in every way.