Friday, July 28, 2017

Book Review: Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend

Atmosphere, action, and adventure characterise Cheryl Carpinello’s second book featuring the young Princess Guinevere and her friend Cedwyn. I loved the first book, Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, where we got to know the young Guinevere and her best friend, Cedwyn. I was very keen to pick up their story and I wasn’t disappointed. Although this is the second book, the author fills in enough back story to indicate past events for readers new to the series, and those who have read book one will be delighted to see how much the two protagonists have grown and matured.

In Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend, the story opens with Britain at war, Guinevere anxiously awaiting news of her father, King Leodegrance, and her betrothed, the young King Arthur, both of whom have ridden north to battle. Some things don’t change though, and when Guinevere and Cedwyn, her childhood friend, slip away from Cadbury Castle, it’s to explore and find out more, this time about the ancient menhirs, the Wizards’ Stones. Magical energy abounds and the two young people are astounded to experience an incredible apparition, that of the Goddess, and she has a message for both of them. However, since peril is hurtling fast towards them, the message portends danger and destruction. Renegades from the north are planning to kidnap the young princess! After a tumultuous and shocking turn of events, Guinevere and Cedwyn discover that the renegades have burnt the Abbey to the ground, the monks have been murdered and, when they make their way back to the castle, they find the children have been taken in lieu of Guinevere to be sold into slavery! Can Guinevere and Cedwyn organise a viable rescue mission, and will it work, taking into consideration that Cedwyn’s message from the Goddess had some dark and foreboding overtones regarding his future...

Author Cheryl Carpinello sets the pace right away for this adventure and it does not let up. Although this author writes for reluctant readers, the narrative is not dumbed-down, and kids will enjoy being steeped in great atmospherics, experiencing every nail-biting, heart-pounding moment of the action, danger, and harsh conditions. Life in medieval times was no picnic and kids will learn just how brutal it could be. The author cleverly inserts relevant details about conditions back then and these help young readers to get a sense of the era and the surroundings the characters inhabit. Young Cedwyn seems to be destined for greater things as he takes the lead in this story, putting himself in danger to save the children. Relevant themes abound, such as making the right decisions, putting others first, keeping your promises, loyalty and friendship, leadership and responsibility, all values that have been forgotten to a large extent in modern society, where “me” is the watchword. In fact, in the very informative and interesting endnotes, Cheryl Carpinello outlines the history of Arthur, the concept of chivalry and the ideals associated with him, and why these concepts and ideals will never die.

Young readers won’t just turn the last page and find the end of the story. Questions for Discussion and Enrichment offer parents, teachers, and librarians a wealth of opportunities to find out how well the young readers remember what they have read, as well as exploring deeper themes for greater understanding. A list of characters and names of places, as well as a map and illustrations keep the young reader firmly entrenched in the story, with a clear idea of who is who, and where they are in the tale. This is a delightful story, filled with history, emotion, action, and adventure to keep those young readers, both reluctant and eager, turning the pages non-stop. The story ends on an exciting cliff-hanger, opening the door to yet another fantastic adventure in an age long past, with themes and ideals that we, living in the 21st century, would do well to remember. A wonderful tale for budding young knights, and those (a little older, perhaps) who remember their chivalric ideals. A great adventure for fans of Arthuriana!

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