High King Uther, Pendragon of Britain has died. He has no clear heir and many under kings are willing to fight for his place including King Lot mac Cormac of the Innsi Ere. Lot is married to Uther’s daughter, Morgawse.
Morgawse is a beautiful woman with a powerful hatred of her father. She, also, is a powerful sorceress who is part of the darkness. She has three sons, Agravain who looks and acts like his father, Gwalchmai who looks like their mother but is nothing like their father and Medraut who was not Lot’s son.
When Lot makes his bid for the High King position, he takes along Agravain as Gwalchmai will never make a good warrior, besides he is too young. Morgawse offers to teach Gwalchmai to read and later how to do magic. Soon, he realizes that the magic is dark and he must make a choice.
Arthur, Uther’s bastard son and warlord, is also making a bid for High King. He’s landless but people flock to him. If he can make the right alliances, Arthur has a very good chance of being High King. He seems to be following the Light, but is he?
This is the first book in a planned series. It takes place as Arthur is gaining power. There is war and disruption across the land. Arthur is trying to unite everyone but peace is only there for a moment.
This book though doesn’t follow Arthur, though he becomes a main character. It follows Gwalchmai and his trails, choices and growing up. Sorcery has a role in his life and magic seems to happen around him. Yet, he has a goal and will not deviate from the path he has chosen.
I really liked the characters in this story. They were real. Sibling rivalry was alive and well between Agravain and Gwalchmai giving their relationship a life of its own. Morgawse is not all bad but she too has failings that make you wonder about her motives. Arthur has his own demons to work through. None of the main characters were simplistic but they were complex.
Things did not move slowly in this story. The pace was fast but not so fast as to loose your place. Yet, there were no places that needed prodding.
Ms Bradshaw informs the reader that not everything in this story this story is historically accurate. She also gives a map and a pronunciation guide for the numerous Welsh words found throughout the book. That being said, this history felt authentic. Characters and situations were depicted as they were in the Arthurian era. I will admit though that the Welsh words and names became confusing for me though I refused to let that interrupt my enjoyment of the story.
I wasn’t sure about this book when I started it but it quickly grew on me until I got that I didn’t want to put it down. I quickly wanted to learn how Gwalchmai made out. He doesn’t have an easy way but he does it his way. The Arthurian era isn’t my favorite but I found myself loving this version. I’m not sure why this book is so different but it is.
This story had fights, battles, loyalties, magic, wonder, family ties and so much more. Everything was mixed as to make it real and believable. I know I was reading a master storyteller and now can’t wait to find out what happens to Gwalchmai next.
Gwalchmai, more familiar to readers as Gawain, is known as one of the most respected warriors of King Arthur’s reign and one of the greatest champions of all time. Framed by historical realism, Gillian Bradshaw expertly weaves convincing magical elements into her fantastic tale of Gwalchmai, the Hawk of May. Son of the beautiful, infinitely evil sorceress Morgawse, nephew to King Arthur, Gwalchmai abandons his mother’s path to Dark power for Arthur’s empire of the Light. But the choice is more difficult than he expected, as the Darkness is very strong...