Sarah's Stars

Nancy McKenzie. Guinevere's Gift
Knopf  $20.99  ISBN 978-0-375-84345-7  328 pg.
Reviewed by Lindsey, Age 14

They slowed to a walk, and the rain, which had been coming at them before, now fell straight down. Guinevere pulled her hood forward again and received a cold sluice of water down her back. Shivering, she had reached for her cloak to pull it tighter around her when a hiss of movement came out of the dark and something thudded into a tree beside them.

"Christ!" swore Marcus. "An arrow! Get down!"

Twelve-year-old Guinevere is living in a foreign country with her aunt and uncle, Queen Alyse and King Pellinore, and her whiny, sneaky cousin Elaine who is being groomed to become queen. Guinevere is the girl in the shadows, even more beautiful than Elaine but not royal, thus she is ignored. But the young ward doesn't want anything to do with suitors, carriages and courts. She just wants to ride horses all day in comfy leggings and tunics, instead of heavy gowns. The only person in the whole world that Guinevere trusts is her nanny Ailsa, who still believes in a prophecy from her and Guinevere's homeland that marks the young girl as a special lady who will be married to a great king and be the most revered queen in the land. But trouble arises when cattle from the royal herd goes missing and Guinevere uncovers two secrets: One is that a tribe of cave-dwelling people have been following her since birth and keeping her safe, and the other is that a neighbouring earl is planning to take over the entire kingdom while King Pellinore is fighting the Saxons! An incredible adventure unfolds, and all the while Elaine crushes on a far-off king and doesn't hesitate to tell Guinevere every single detail. He is said to be noble, just and incredibly handsome. His name? Arthur...

Nancy McKenzie's Guinevere's Gift isn't a retelling of the story of Guinevere and Arthur; it is more of a prequel, the story of what happened to Guinevere before she even met Arthur. Guinevere is a plucky, courageous heroine who will resonate in the hearts and minds of her readers. I thought the book, which is the first in a quartet, would be for younger readers but there are a few language problems, which make it more of a YA novel. The first half of the book was somewhat boring. The author paints a vivid description of Guinevere's life but I had to force myself to turn the pages but fortunately, once the action gets going the book really stays interesting and is quite fast-paced. There were a few clichés riddled throughout the story but far fewer than the average fantasy novel, which was nice. I would have liked to see more magic though. Perhaps in the other three books? So, although not an epic groundbreaker, Guinevere's Gift is a novel that will satisfy the reader's craving for some good, classic fantasy.

I give Nancy McKenzie's Guinevere's Gift three stars.


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