Twilight of Avalon takes two ancient myths — Arthur and Tristan and Isolde — and fuses them together into a political/romance/historical/fantasy. The story picks up where the Arthurian legends leave off: Arthur has been betrayed by his bastard son, Mordred, and both are dead. Isolde, who is Mordred’s bastard daughter by Guinevere, was made high queen soon after her father’s death, by marriage to King Constantine. However, seven short years after their crowning, Constantine is dead and Isolde fears for her own life. Especially since she knows — due to a rare Sight-influenced vision — that Constantine was murdered by Lord Marche, who is scheming for the high kingship himself. It’s only through her own wits, abilities, and the help of a half-Saxon prisoner named Trystan, that she’s able to escape and find a way to prove to the court the truth about Lord Marche.
While Elliott includes a fantasy element with Isolde’s Sight and ventures into the Arthurian world, it’s more a gritty, political book than anything else. There is much positioning for power, negotiating, and war-making, which sounds more boring than it actually is. Isolde is a competent woman, and as a healer, she is able to get into and out of places that otherwise — even as high queen — she wouldn’t be able to. Unfortunately, she makes some rather rash decisions, which put her in the path of both admirable (Trystan) and less admirable (Lord Marche) men.
The only element missing in the book is the romance between Isolde and Trystan — I don’t know much about the legend, but I do know that it was supposed to be a grand love story. As it is, because Trystan and Isolde spend much of the book not trusting each other, there’s not much opportunity for the romance to bloom. However, the book is the first in a trilogy, so there is potential.
In all, though, an interesting addition to the Arthurian lore, one that takes the myth into new and intriguing directions.
Rated: Mild: there’s a lot of violence, and some indirect references to sex and rape, but nothing graphic