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The Raven Warrior (The Second Tale Of Guinevere) by Alice Borchardt

01/01/2009. Contributed by Jill Roberts

Buy The Raven Warrior in the USA - or Buy The Raven Warrior in the UK

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pub: Bantam. 624 page paperback. Price: £ 6.99 (UK). ISBN: 0-553-81513-X.

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Set at the end of the Roman Invasion of Britain and speaks of Old Magik, 'The Raven Warrior' starts off with Guinevere. She's a young inexperienced Pictish Queen about to lead a sea-going raiding party against the Saxon invaders in retaliation against atrocities perpetrated on her own people. The raid is a rite of passage for her and for some of her followers, it is a journey of discovery and of battle hardening. The raiding party is a success with three Saxon strongholds being razed to the ground, bringing back provisions and the spoils of war but no prisoners.

Black-Leg, a young man/wolf changeling, is also on a journey of discovery. Not wanting to join Guinevere on her raiding party, he sets off overland on his own to prove himself a great warrior. Early on in his travels he comes across a large lake where hidden in the woods nearby is a dirty, scruffy old man who discover later to have been Merlin. They fight and Merlin looses the battle as he no longer has his powers and skulks off into the woods. Washing himself in the lake, Black Leg comes across bored, very beautiful and quite horny female elemental that lives in the lake. Between eating and sleeping, they have several bouts of hot, passionate sex as she joins him on his travels. She refuses to give him her name, so all Black-Leg knows her as is the Lady of the Lake. When they decide to part company names him Lancelot, bestowing upon him magical raven helmet, shield and sword. On his further travels, Lancelot has indeed grown in knowledge and skills, becoming a great warrior.

Here, within this story, Merlin and Igraine are very unpleasant people. In one of her visits with him, Merlin magiks her to his secret lair and tortures her during sex. He is so preoccupied with what he is doing to Igraine, that Ustane, a previous lover, attacks Merlin, stripped him of his powers and removed him from his own lair. She counsels Igraine, who becomes quite a formidable foe to Uther, her ex-husband.

In this world, Uther wed Igraine, partly to gain the lands of the Lord of Cornwall and partly to gain an heir to his throne. She bore him a son, Arthur, but Igraine often strayed from Uther's bed to that of her mentor and lover, Merlin. At first, Uther put up with her infidelities until he caught them torturing the young Arthur. In anger, he fought against her and Merlin and with his loyal knights, rode out of Tintagel and away from them, ending his marriage to Igraine.

In their travels, Guinevere and her raiding party come across a strange land and its people where they battle and resist enslavement. These people prize glowing orbs they call mariglobes and the powers they bestow upon women to travel between worlds.

Right at the very end, Lancelot and Arthur meet up and decide to travel together, wandering though a thick fog, they meet Guinevere and the slaves she has rescued from the land of the mariglobes.

The plot threads weave themselves together like honeysuckle stems intertwining along a fence or like the complicated Celtic knot-work patterns. In other words, this story is v-e-r-y- convoluted. If you were making notes through book one, I reckon you will be able to keep up with the story here. If not, I suggest you make notes as you go along with this book, as the story is very dense and heavy going. Having said that, these people are three-dimensional, flesh and blood characters with lots of back story and at times very physical details of them and their lives.

The segments are erratic and tend to jump from one cliffhanger to another, giving it the feel of the Saturday morning matinees of my childhood. I found this very annoying as I would then have to read through several more segments before I find out how it resolved. As there are several strands that stop and start within each chapter, it was quite frustrating.

Before this book started, Arthur, Black Leg/Lancelot and Guinevere were separate people, leading separate lives. At the end of this book. they have only just met and Arthur and Guinevere have yet to wed. So I'm assuming the next book will be mostly about Guinevere and Arthur with some about Lancelot and his battles. A smallish book with the text tightly packed on the page, which didn't make it easy on the eyes neither.

This story has all the relevant names of Arthurian mythology but none of the idealism or romance of the 12th century stories. As well as not having Merlin take the young Arthur away from Uther to train him, we don't have the clichéd Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot love triangle, nor the Morgana or Mordred storyline.

This book was mostly Guinevere her people and her battles, Black Leg and how he becomes Lancelot, with a lot about Uther and Igraine, a little about Merlin and Ustaine and a very little about Arthur. It is an interesting re-working of the Arthurian mythology, taking it all back to the basics of its probable 6th century reality.

Jill Roberts

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