Persia Woolley,
Child of the Northern Spring
(Pocket, 1987)

Guinevere is ready to leave on her journey south to become High Queen of Britain when Persia Woolley's Child of the Northern Spring begins. She is also ready to flee, frightened of marrying this young, but legendary king, terrified of leaving her familiar places and becoming queen over a much broader land.

Much of the story unfolds through flashbacks, first as Guinevere recalls her younger days, and later as Arthur's foster brother and trusted lieutenant Bedivere shares with her the story of Arthur's own youth and rise to power. The tale catches up to itself when Guinevere and Arthur finally meet, just a few weeks before their wedding, and runs through the early days of married life. Happiness for the young monarchs, while not assured, seems within reach.

Of course, the story isn't over yet; Child of the Northern Spring is the first of three books (and, when originally published in 1987, there was a long wait for the second book in the series). The story as conceived by Woolley is similar in many ways (and in others, entirely different) to The Child Queen, an excellent novel written several years later by Nancy McKenzie. Ultimately, I think McKenzie's two-part version does it better, but Woolley's comes close. Very close.

Woolley has done her research and the book smacks of history -- not as contrived by Malory or those who followed in his fantasy-heavy footsteps, but of Britain as it may have been in the wake of Rome's withdrawal and the early days of Saxon occupation. Likewise, she has drawn characters who are believable, likable and strong.

Child of the Northern Spring is highly recommended for fans of Arthurian fiction, particularly those tired of seeing Guinevere portrayed as foolish, vain, faithless or opportunistic.

by Tom Knapp
19 November 2005

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