What I've Read This Week . . .
This final installment of the Squire's Tales has Mordred and his mother, Morgause causing strife within Camelot. Many of the characters from previous novels appear in an attempt to save or destroy Camelot. The magical folk watch the struggle but try not to get involved. They have a tough decision to make as the age of the faery folk ends and the age of ignorance begins. The story sticks true to the common legend of King Arthur and is told from multiple points-of-view. I found the multiple POV distracting and had a hard time remembering who all the characters were. Luckily, there's a nice reference section in the back that provides brief biographies on the characters. This story is pretty grim and lacked Morris's trademark tongue-in-cheek humor. I don't think he should have tried to finish the sags but let the earlier stories stand on their own. There are shades of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter which were a bit over done but the writing is good and the story kept me turning the page in hopes of a different ending. If you've read the rest of the series and want to finish or if you're a big King Arthur fan (I'm not) then you'll probably love this book.
In this companion to Princess of the Midnight Ball, Princess Poppy has to leave her beloved Westphalin for an extended stay in Breton as part of a royal exchange to promote peace in Ionia. Poppy enjoys the social life and her new friends, but is adamant that she does NOT dance. She does, however, knit, play cards (shocking!) , ride horses (badly) and swear like a sailor. Prince Christian of Danelaw is also sent to Breton to find a suitable bride. Though he doesn't want to marry right now, he sees the trip as the adventure he's always longed for. He enjoys the refreshing company of Princess Poppy and tries to avoid the matchmaking schemes of the Bretoner King. Eleanora was once a spoiled, wealthy daughter of an aristocrat until her father's death left her penniless. Now calling herself Ellen, she's employed as a maid. Poor Ellen can't seem to do anything right and after losing several positions she comes to work at the home of Poppy's hosts. When a mysterious woman, The Corley, appears, calling herself Eleanora's godmother and promising to restore the girl to her rightful position, Eleanora readily accepts the help of her godmother. Soon she's the belle of the ball, enchanting Prince Christian and the only young men. Poppy is one of the only people who can see there's dark magic afoot. She has to set aside her pride and fear of dark magic to try to save Eleanora and Christian before it's too late. This is a dark retelling of Cinderella. (Disney take notes because this is how the story should be told.) There's danger, adventure and romance enough to please older children, teens and adults. The story is well-written and I enjoyed it much more than Princess of the Midnight Ball. Poppy is a realistic and appealing character who has flaws, is vulnerable at times and proactive in trying to save the day. Eleanora is a well-developed character who grows and changes and my opinion of her changes too. Christian is rather two-dimensional and I would have liked more of the story from his point of view. My only complaint is that the book is just a bit too short and the climax of the story is resolved a little too quickly. I especially like Poppy's decision at the end which is realistic for her age and sweet. I highly recommend this book, even for those who haven't read the first.