After the fall of Arthur and Mordred, it is Constantine who now rules Britain as King. He plans to forge his own dynasty through his sons: Meliodas, Markion and Pernam. But Pernam chooses a life of simplicity and his eldest son Meliodas, King of Lyonesse, dies, leaving behind a young son Tristan.
Tristan grows into a fine young man, with the heart of a poet, under the guardianship of his uncle Mark. While the people of Lyonesse worry that Mark will never grant Tristan the crown that is rightfully his – already Constantine has displaced Tristan in favour of Mark for the crown of Britain – Tristan loves and trusts his uncle, almost giving his life for Mark’s right to be Constatine’s heir.
But when Mark’s son dies, he is advised to take a new wife to guarantee his own legacy in Britain. In order to strengthen bonds weakened after the death of Arthur, Markion will take as his bride Essylte, daughter of King Percival.
Tristan is sent to escort his uncle’s bride to be to her new home. But no sooner do Tristan and Essylte meet then they fall in love. Torn between their love and their duties, their forbidden romance will put the future of a united Britain in the balance.
The problem I so often have with books about Tristan and Isolde/Essylte, or about Helen and Paris for that matter, is that the characters themselves know how much they are risking with their romance, so I need to feel like the book has really sold me on their love for me to believe that the risk is worth it. And this book didn’t sell me on their romance. Maybe it’s me, but I need more depth than “love at first sight”. Considering that Tristan was sick and feverish for a lot of their early meeting, it felt more like a reliance on the person caring for him then love.
I dislike how Mark is always the evil character in these books, with no shades of gray, no subtlety to his character. In the book, he doesn’t deny Tristan the crown of Lyonesse, like people feared, and he didn’t take the High Crown of Britain from him – Tristan’s grandfather made Mark heir. And Tristan doesn’t want to be the King of Britain, knowing that he doesn’t possess the qualities of a good king. Tristan and Essylte make Mark and his main advisor out to be jealous or petty respectively when people suspect them of an inappropriate relationship. Considering how bad Mark is in the book, the fact that Tristan and Essylte feel guilty of betraying him is another way of showing how good they are compared to him.
Considering what Tristan and Essylte ask Branwen – Esslylte’s childhood companion – to do to protect them and then how they break their word to her, I don’t think they are the good people they pretend to be.
I’m trying to think of anything about this book that I liked, but I can’t. I mainly read it because I like stories connected to the Arthurian legend and for some reason can’t not read even the bad ones.