Set in the dark ages of 6th century Britain, and based heavily on, from what I understand, some of the earliest known Arthurian legends..”Twilight of Avalon” begins abruptly, jumping straight into the story of Isolde..our main character. Isolde, a young woman stricken with grief, is first introduced to us as she mourns the loss of her husband, High King Constantine. Though King Constantine is said to have died of battle wounds — we are soon shown through this novel, that not all is as it seems. Thus the story is set in motion — a story of betrayal, politics, and treachery. A story of the battle one woman must take, despite being feared, loathed and dubbed a witch by many — to protect her husband’s throne, and help save Britain from it’s own demise.
Due to the fact that I’m a complete newbie when it comes to Arthurian legend, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel — though because of such great reviews, and a recommendation from a friend here on Librarything (Hi Shanra!) — I took the plunge, and grabbed this book. I can say now, that I am certainly glad that I did! And while I was, admittedly attracted to the sullen beauty that graces the cover of this great book — I can say now that the cover is only a small part to enjoy — as the contents within is equally as beautiful, and totally gripping!
From the Character development and compelling histories of Isolde and Trystan, to the vivid action, intrigue, and deep emotion that’s injected into nearly every page of this novel — there was something constantly holding my attention and interest. While in general, I am a slow reader and prefer to savor rather than devour, I found myself uncharacteristically flying through this novel. There was so much here to keep the reader engaged — and closing the book was almost painful. Not only was Isolde such a great, strong, sympathetic and relatable character, but Trystan was just as interesting, and the connection between the two was very organic. I found myself wanting to know more with each page. Know more of their history — of their lives. Not only this, but as the story progressed it became more and more enthralling, and I found myself at the edge of my seat on more than one occasion. Simply put, there was a lot here — great characters (and quite a few), intense action, emotion, twists, turns, and excellent writing.
Aside from the ability this novel had of keeping me up half the night — I will also say that there were a few happenings that occurred that took me completely off guard — and one twist in particular, towards the end, that had me shocked. Not only this, but the scene in which I speak of, which I will describe no more, was so vivid it played out like a scene from a horror film! While this novel has a great story, with intriguing characters, I think the real magic here lay in the superior writing. Elliot writes in a way which is not over-bearing or wordy, yet not simple — but in a way that portrays a vivid realism — a realism that had me latching on to each action — each thought — each progression the story took. Throughout, it all felt very real — and with that, there was also quite a bit of darkness and grit (as it is a time of war). So of course, there were a few moments that had me holding back tears.
Finally, there is one last point that I’ll address before closing this review. On more than one occasion I’ve seen this novel tagged as “romance,” and I can say that after reading it, there is very little romance here — for there’s simply no time for it. This is a very tightly wound piece — there is no filler — everything happens for a reason, and it is done in a way that truly grabs the reader and never lets go. There’s so much happening..so much danger and adventure, that a romantic bond never really forms..at least to a point where it’s blatantly obvious — which is certainly understandable, given the situation of the story. So, generally..if you’re looking for a romance novel, full of mushiness and love, you won’t find it here. Though I can say however, that the following installments could (and I’m sure will) lead to more romantic situations. Afterall, this IS just the first of a trilogy.
With that said, I found this to be a beautifully written, emotionally charged, and incredibly entertaining read! While I currently know very little of the Arthurian Legends, I can say that my lack of knowledge did nothing to hinder my enjoyment when reading this piece. So if you’re like myself, and know little of the legend, don’t let it discourage you from reading this. As far as I’m concerned, as long as you’re a fan of a more gritty, dark fantasy — full of war, tension, danger, excellent characters, and adventure, chances are you’ll really enjoy this. Also, if you’re interested in Arthurian Legend you should enjoy this as well.
Anna Elliot did a great job with this piece, and while it is my first time reading any of her work, I can now easily say that I plan to follow her future novels and can hardly wait for the second installment of this trilogy! By the end of “Twilight of Avalon”, I had a really hard time putting it down simply because I didn’t want it to end. Luckily enough, I know that the second installment is already finished and just waiting to be released (in the spring of next year). So..all in all..if you’re looking for a compelling, beautifully written fantasy novel..check this out. I doubt you’ll be disappointed. It’s really, really good