Pendragon’s Heir by Suzannah Rowntree (2015, Bocfodder Press)
I have always had a fascination with all things Camelot – Guinevere, Avalon, The Lady of Shallot, The Grail Quest. So when this book came up in my BookBub email I was intrigued. Combining Camelot with a Narnia type-story pretty much hits all my buttons, so I eagerly started it a few weeks ago.
This gripping adventure captures the magic and scope of The Chronicles of Narnia in a story sophisticated enough for mature readers. Blanche Pendragon is dragged from Edwardian England to the time of King Arthur… and discovers that Camelot’s fate may depend on her.
Blanche Pendragon and Sir Perceval, the two protagonists, are young and yet compelling and believable enough in how they cope with their respective circumstances. Their love story was laid out pretty much straight away which was a good thing for me – I hate stories that spend time constructing independent, kick ass characters only to push them together in a relationship for the sake of adding a romantic element to the story. Pendragon’s Heir relies significantly on romantic relationship to drive the story, however in the midst of an often romanticised Camelot, the relationships feel genuine in their highs and lows. The world of Camelot, and of Edwardian England serve as the backbone for Blanche and Perceval respectively, contextually informing their thoughts and actions as being typical of their upbringing and values.
On the values mentioned the book does a good job of exploring the devotion and significance of the Grail Quest without getting too preachy. To me the Round Table knights have always lived passionately, whether that was for King and Country, Lord and Saviour or Women and Wine. Pendragon’s Heir explores the virtue, courage and honour in different sets of knights and ladies, with justification and contextual explanation driving these values to the heart of the characters. The book feels like something significant in its telling of knighthood, but without getting overly into the nitty gritty of warfare.
The writing itself was very good I thought. In combining modern story telling (time travel, religious fanaticism) with oft-romanticised periods in Britain’s history, Rowntree manages to write in a way that doesn’t feel dated. The characters’ inner thoughts are fairly true to their contexts and their progression builds naturally; there aren’t any moments where a character does something that appears farfetched or odd. I found myself highlighting more than a few quotations that stood out to me, but I have a feeling that many of them may have been from source material themselves.
We yield up our bodies every day, not for glory and fortune but so that those weaker than ourselves may live.
(Rowntree, Suzannah. Pendragon’s Heir (p. 149). Bocfodder Press. Kindle Edition.)
I particularly enjoy books that weave historical and mythical moments and characters with fictional elements. Pendragon’s Heir does this quite thoroughly; the familiar Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot, Morgan Le Fay/Mordred and the Grail Quest plots are told with reverence to the historical and canonical significance while at the same time those new elements (Blanche and Edwardian time travel) are weaved throughout quite seamlessly. I may have gotten even more excited (though I cannot find it now for the life of me, of course) in finding a reference to Pevensies visiting Sir Ector.
Overall I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the Arthur legend, or historical fiction. According to Goodreads users the book is of many genres, for me though I would go Arthurian, historical and romance, though of the latter there is a welcome lack of teen angst and romantic over-descriptions.
Hope you are reading something fun! And if you have any recommendations based on this novel, please let me know as I love me some Camelot.