(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
This saga of yearning and mystery travels across oceans and continents to Iceland, Greenland, and North America during the time in history when Anglo-Saxons battled Vikings and the Norsemen discovered America. The marked contrasts between powerful royalty, landless peasants, Viking warriors and noble knights are expertly brought to life in this gripping tale of the French prince named Rumon. Shipwrecked off the Cornish coast on his quest to find King Arthur’s legendary Avalon, Rumon meets a lonely girl named Merewyn and their lives soon become intertwined. Rumon brings Merewyn to England, but once there he is so dazzled by Queen Alrida’s beauty that it makes him a virtual prisoner to her will. In this riveting romance, Anya Seton once again proves her mastery of historical detail and ability to craft a compelling tale that includes real and colorful personalities such as St. Dunstan and Eric the Red.
As I do often, I picked up Avalon in a store because it had really cool cover art. Also, the setting I thought was pretty interesting.
Now, this book is categorized as historical romance. Normally I don’t read romance stories, but I do read historical ones, and when I got it I didn’t even know it was defined as romance anyways; its cover art looked cool as already stated, and the side panels on the interior of the book showed it had a setting I enjoyed, although if you get the book, I’d recommend you don’t read much of those, as they tell virtually the entire plot bar the end. I saw where these mischievous panels were going and just started reading the book instead.
This book took up a lot of my time initially. I was engaged in the time period, the characters, all of it.The plot does not span a small time-span; it follows two characters, Rumon and Merewyn, over the course of decades — from the late 10th century through the 11th — and weaves through many locations, such as southern Britain, Iceland, Greenland, and even a small portion of the Americas. It takes all these different historical events and characters of those times, and uses Rumon and Merewyn to fling you along and through them.
A lot happens in the plot, and it has a unique structure somewhat because of what it spans. I never felt like it was just slogging me through back- or sidestory too much, but for me it was very suspenseful, occasionally wishing Rumon would move a little faster because a lot depends on it and I am way into this plot.
I don’t want to spoil ending, but the book does a good job at not going where you think it will go. It stubbornly sticks with this until the end, and even though it probably isn’t where you thought it would end up, I can’t fault the book for that. I instead believe that it gives a suitable ending, that fulfills, just not in the way you were hoping.
Also, the ending sets up the events that happen after the considerable span of the book. In this way, I think the book, albeit an old one at this point (published first in ’65), does a masterful job of placing a personal story and plot inside the major history, without conflicting, and in fact using both to support each other. So I’d like to give my compliments to the author, who wrote that book so long ago.