Kim Iverson Headlee

Lucky Bat Books / 415 pages / 2d edition (February 25, 2013)


Here’s a theory (and this is only a theory):  you are either an Arthurian fan or you are not. If you’re not, the scores of Camelot capers leave you cold. And here’s why no theory is foolproof:  Dawnflight doesn’t adhere to that rule. Like the legend or loathe it, this book is going to pull you in. You can count me as living proof.

This is the saga of Guinevere, but it is like no other chronicle of the queen that you have ever read. Headlee has dug deep into the history of this period and found a heroine who could kick the medieval ass of any of the fair maidens who have come before her.

Dawnflight is the story of the warrior, the Chieftainess, the woman, Guinevere.

Scotland, at this time, is a land at war. Rome is continuing its spread across the globe. Clans await the slightest opening to conquer their neighbours. And a Roman soldier, newly appointed Pendragon of Brydein, seeks to bring unity, if not peace, to the splintered lands.

But Arthur Pendragon’s plan to unite the people through the marriage of rival clans is about to face a major obstacle as he comes face-to-face with the “sacrificial” bride. How can he allow Guinevere to marry his bitter rival, Urien? And how can he put a stop to the marriage without igniting the embers of war that still smoulder across the land?

Camelot is still a long way in the future in the time of Dawnflight; this is the ragged and brutal beginnings of the ideal kingdom.

Whether it is the wealth of detail, the heated passions, the struggle to overcome more base motives of their enemies and their allies, or the hunger to know how the legend we know will spring from these elements, it’s a compulsive read. The kind of story that you find yourself wondering about while standing in line, facing an interminable wait in the airport, or suffering through a patronising planetarium presentation.

Maybe it all boils down to finding a Guinevere you can respect. When this maiden is in distress she starts working on her own way out. Maybe it’s the realistic portrayal of life in the time of King Arthur. Just maybe — no, probably — it’s the need to see the details of the legend we all know will result from this wilder, rougher tale.

How do Franco Nero and Vannessa Redgrave figure into all this? And will you find out in Dawnflight? That’s not for me to reveal, but I will say that all signs point to another volume in the saga. What Headlee does with the more familiar aspects of the Arthurian legend is too tempting to pass up.

All tales of Camelot are the same? Not by a long-shot, and this is the book that will change your opinion on that little matter.

And if you eat your chivalry with a spoon, you have just gotten luckier than you could imagine.

Either way, get out there and get your copy of a new legend in the making. In fact, you just might want to slip a little something extra in my pay envelope…