Author: Fil Reid
Series: Guinevere Book 1
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Dragonblade Publishing, USA
Publish Date: January 11, 2022
Print Length: 312
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The present day – 24-year-old librarian Gwen goes to scatter her father’s ashes on Glastonbury Tor and is kidnapped back in time to become King Arthur’s Dark Age queen – Guinevere.
Gwen, a twenty-four-year-old librarian, lives with her boyfriend, Nathan, in a small house, with all the accoutrements of modern living any girl could ask for. When her father dies, and with her ne’er-do-well twin brother on the other side of the world, it’s left to Gwen to fulfill her father’s wishes and scatter his ashes on the top of Glastonbury Tor in Somerset, England. Stepping into the ruined church tower, a gold ring catches her eye – a ring embossed with a dragon emblem. When Gwen picks it up, she’s snatched into the dangerous world of the Dark Ages, where she discovers she’s expected to fulfill a prophecy, by marrying Prince Arthur and helping him become the king of legend.
Arthur, Prince of Dumnonia, and son of the ailing King Uthyr Pendragon, has ruled the hilltop fortress of Din Cadan for his father since he was a boy of sixteen. But he has an older brother who looks set to inherit both the kingdom and the High Kingship. Tall, handsome, ruthless, he’s less than convinced that any prophecy can decide his future, and he doesn’t think he needs a wife. But news comes that his father is at last dying in far-off Viroconium. Taking Gwen with him, further and further from the Tor where she had hoped to return to her own world, he sets off to outwit his brother.
I received a gifted copy of this book from Literally Public Relations Ltd. and the author to participate in this blog tour. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.
The Dragon Ring (Guinevere Book 1) is a historical fantasy romance inspired by Arthurian legend. Our story starts when Guinevere, or Gwen, finds herself unexpectedly whisked back in time to 5th century England while paying respects to her recently deceased father on Glastonbury Tor. (For those unfamiliar with Glastonbury Tor, like I was, it’s a hill near Glastonbury that’s often linked to Celtic mythology, such as King Arthur.) The wary locals believe she’s a witch or a Saxon spy. So they waste no time escorting her to Din Cadan, Prince Arthur’s hilltop fortress, for judgment.
Once there Merlin confirms Gwen is the Lady of the Ring, much to her surprise. A prophecy well known across the land foretold that a woman with no past would arrive with the dragon ring of Dumnonia, heralding the rise of King Arthur. Though Gwen doesn’t put much faith in prophecies, she has few options at her disposal. She has no way to return to or communicate with her boyfriend, Nathan, so she bides her time. But how long can she actually put off her seemingly inevitable marriage to Arthur? As she spends more time with him, she begins to wonder where her heart actually lies.
The author does a good job showing Gwen’s inner conflict between her devotion to Nathan and her growing amour for Arthur. She grapples with wanting the only life she knows, or allowing herself to be content with medieval life in Arthur’s court. Gwen sometimes catches herself enjoying her life in the past, which in turn makes her feel guilty, melancholy, and confused. I personally would have liked to see a little more of this conflict, though, particularly as Gwen’s and Arthur’s relationship progresses. By the end their feelings for each other are clear. But the relationship pacing at times was slow and at other times a little too fast.
I think the main reason for this is because the author spends a lot of time on medieval life and history rather than dialogue that builds a closeness between characters. This makes the romance portion of the story seem just a little contrived (again, this is subjective). However, it’s quite evident that the author spent a lot of time researching how people lived in 5th century England. There are robust descriptions of what and how people ate at court and on the road; the dress; the roads and infrastructure; the care of horses; and the scenery. I’m not well versed in this time period, so I found it all to be very interesting.
The author also devotes a lot of time to what was then recent history. That is, Arthur’s family’s lineage, the various kings at the time–basically the who, what, when. Again, this shows Reid’s devout interest and attention to detail about this time period. There were a couple instances, though, where it felt a bit like an information dump. There’s one scene in particular where Arthur tells Gwen about history and my eyes kind of crossed; there was just too much information to absorb that wasn’t that relevant to the plot.
I like strong, stubborn female main characters (MC) as much as the next person. But I commend the author for creating a MC that understands where she is in time. Gwen understands that 5th century England is a “man’s world”. She doesn’t try to “speak out of turn,” but she’s not a push over either. Rather, she waits for private moments to voice her opinions. I also like the author’s realistic twist on Arthurian characters. By focusing more on the origins of the legends, such as giving characters Welsh forms of names (e.g., Cei instead of Kay) and highlighting Roman influence, Reid presents a superb example of magical realism.
One concept I hope Reid explores more in the next book(s) is Gwen’s influence on the future. Gwen wonders about it a few times in this book, but not in depth. Since she more or less knows the future, I wonder whether her character is also an amalgamation of Elaine of Astolat and/or Nimue (who are seers depending on which retelling you read).
Overall, I would recommend this book to fans of Arthurian retellings. It would be especially of interest to those curious about what life was probably like post-Roman occupation.
Content warnings: sex, blood, death, fight scenes
Reading format: Paperback
About the Author
After a varied life that’s included working with horses where Downton Abbey is filmed, riding racehorses, running her own riding school, owning a sheep farm and running a holiday business in France, Fil now lives on a widebeam canal boat on the Kennet and Avon Canal in Southern England with her husband, a rescue dog from Romania called Bella, and Nancy the cat.
She once saw a ghost in a churchyard, and when she lived in Wales there was a panther living near her farm that ate some of her sheep.
She has Asperger’s Syndrome and her obsessions include horses and King Arthur. She speaks fluent French after living there for ten years, and in her spare time looks after her allotment, makes clothes and dolls for her grand daughters, embroiders and knits. In between visiting the settings for her books.