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In Winter's Shadow by Gillian Bradshaw

In Winter's Shadow (1982)

by Gillian Bradshaw

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Another in the "Hawk of May" trilogy, a pretty good version of "Historical Arthur" with Gwalchmai/Gawaine as the POV character. The characterization is pretty sharp, and the action moves along pretty well. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Sep 3, 2013 |
There are very few Arthurian retellings that truly make me feel sorry for Guinevere/Gwenhwyfar. I'm not entirely sure that this is one of them, but it made me cry, so perhaps it must be. It's a painful read, this last book of the trilogy. Gillian Bradshaw spares the reader no pain: these aren't legendary characters, but for the space of reading, real people, and I grieved for their hurts and mistakes and the way they got swept away in circumstances. I'm not sure I liked Gwenhwyfar and Bedwyr, by halfway through the story, but I pitied them. I even grieved over Medraut's death, when he heard of Gwalchmai's death.

(There are no spoiler warnings on this, because I judge that the deaths of Medraut and Gwalchmai are well enough known that it would be a bit like putting a spoiler warning on something about the eruption of Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii. I've seen people request one, but it seems ridiculous to me.)

Bradshaw's retelling is a powerful one, and it brings the characters to life. It's also a painful one. I don't find much hope in it, despite the epilogue. The Light goes out at the end, trampled under a cavalry charge. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
I liked this book quite a bit more than the first two volumes of Bradshaw's Arthurian trilogy. I said in the reviews of the other two books that I not only didn't feel those first two books were standouts among Arthurian-themed books I had read, but that I preferred Bradshaw's straight historical fiction. And I do, even though I am a lover of fantasy--even high fantasy. Nevertheless part of the reason I liked this so much more is that this novel does read much more like historical fiction than fantasy. There are no tales of spending time in Faerie. No sorcery. No glowing swords that heal or witch's curses. Just the tale of a woman, Gwynhwyfar, who as a little girl found coins and broken glass of the departed Roman Empire and dreamed with Arthur of forming a storm break that could prevent the flickering candle of law and learning from guttering out. Bradshaw's historical works often dealt with Roman civilization, and I think the way she deals with the theme here resonates more than it does with most Arthurian stories. I also think that this is told by Gwynfwyfar also helps. Gwalchmai (Gawain) of the first book Hawk of May and Rhys of Kingdom of Summer didn't quite grip me the way she did as a character. Doesn't get five stars because I still can't help comparing this to beloved favorites such as Mary Stuart's Merlin Trilogy or T.H. White's The Once and Future King. But definitely a strong finish and a good read those interested in Arthurian legends--or the historical Dark Ages--would enjoy. I think it could even stand alone, although I think reading the first two books--which are enjoyable in their own right--would help. ( )
1 vote LisaMaria_C | Jun 5, 2012 |
Rating: 4* of five

The Book Report: The last days of Camelot as narrated by Guinevere. Arthur lost in battle, Gawain and Mordred at daggers drawn over the death of Gawain's beloved son, death comes for all in the epic Battle of Camelot...Guinevere dies to the world by becoming a nun, and later the abbess of her nunnery. In this book, Guinevere's rupture with Arthur comes because she dishonorably attempts to rid the kingdom of horrible Mordred, not because she dallies with Lancelot. Frankly, I like this version a whole lot better because it makes internal sense to me, being the way I would expect Guinevere to have behaved based on her established character. Guinevere then reflects on the crash-and-burn of her hopes and Arthur's to save some small corner of the world for Roman knowledge and enlightenment. She sees, at the very end of her life, the Irish monastic ark that preserves a tiny fragment of Classical culture for the ungrateful future, and rests herself easy at last.

My Review: This is a reissue of the 1981 YA title that formed part of Bradshaw's first major commercial success. I got the book as part of the Goodreads First Reads program.

Bradshaw uses the Britonized spellings of the well-known characters' names: Gwynhwyfar, Medraut, Gwalchmai, none of which I felt comfortable with until about halfway through the book. She has a real gift for the characterization of these people, unlike some Arthurian follow-ons. She makes each of the people who come forward in the narrative into a very real presence. It's a lot of work to make a character consistent internally, but she does it, and despite the fact that she didn't have to because the characters are already so well-known.

This is book three of a trilogy. Frankly, it shouldn't matter much if you read them in order because I assume you're at least passingly familiar with the legend on which the books are based. Still, in order, the books are Hawk of May as narrated by the eponymous Gwalchmai or Gawain, being the story of his rebellion against his terrible mom Morgan le Fay/Morgawse, and service to her detested bastard half-brother Arthur; Kingdom of Summer, the tale of Gawain's penance for seducing the daughter of a king he was on Arthur's embassy to, and the death of his rotten mother at the hands of his big bully brother; finally this book. ( )
2 vote richardderus | Oct 5, 2011 |
This is the final book in my favourite trilogy and my all time favourite version of the Arthurian legend.

In Winter's Shadow is told in the first person, from the point of view of the Lady Gwynhywyfar. If you like fantasy or you are fascinated by tales of Arthurian Britain, this trilogy is two good to miss! ( )
  seldombites | Aug 1, 2009 |
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To Gwynhwyfar, daughter of Ogyrfan, Augusta, Empress of Britain [the letter began], from Menw, son of Cynan, lord of the noble clan of the sons of Maxentius: many greetings.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"As powerful enemies attack the throne from inside the kingdom, Arthur, his queen, and his greatest warrior Gwalchmai will be put to the ultimate test. Never faltering in her loyalty to the king, Gwynhwyfar has stood at Arthur's side through rebellion and war. But one desperate decision could cost her all they've built. With the kingdom crumbling around them, following the Queen's heart could be the greatest threat of all..."--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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