Don't miss my exclusive interview with author E. A. Haltom under the section "Writer's Blog/For Authors." The Haltom page also includes a synopsis and excerpt from "Gwendolyn's Sword."
Gwendolyn de Cardinham has had to run the family estate, Penhallam, on her own since her husband left for the crusades when she was still a teenager. She is now a woman to be reckoned with, respected by her men, and as good as any knight with the sword. When she confronts a group of supporters for John’s bid for the throne, brother to Richard I, King of England, in a field near Penhallam, suddenly the turmoil in England has entered her quiet estate. In order to save her family’s land and her people, Gwendolyn must confront her family history: She is the sole survivor and heir of King Arthur and the true owner of his legendary sword, Caliburn, which can help thwart John’s plans until the true king of England returns. But does Gwendolyn have the courage to believe in more than just her strength and her sword.
Haltom’s debut novel, “Gwendolyn’s Sword,” brings to life a
fascinating tale rooted in the legend of King Arthur and his famous sword Caliburn, better known as Excalibur to us modern folk. Haltom
weaves together interesting and complex characters in a world on the brink of war. Haltom does a wonderful job at creating characters I wanted to get to know! These characters are driven by a certain
set of beliefs which they find come into question within the novel and provides individual development and strong relationships within the group traveling with Gwendolyn. In terms of the setting, I
loved the details Haltom provided as her characters walked through castles or traveled through towns and cities. The places and language detailed in the storyline felt genuine to the period.
Haltom does a fantastic job of balancing the dichotomy of Gwendolyn’s unique place on her family’s lands versus the place a woman holds in England at large. Because she carries a sword, Gwendolyn is accused of being a witch. Because she is a woman, men laugh at her because she even carries a sword. Most women were viewed as property to be used by the Queen as favors to men in her court and/or to secure alliances. Gwendolyn is forced to fight against not just Prince John and his followers but also the prejudiced belief system of the time period. There have been few people in her life who have valued and respected her intelligence as well as her leadership skills. One of those was her husband who married her because he knew Gwendolyn would run his family estate with fairness and aptitude while he accompanied King Richard on the Crusades.
The character Haltom develops in Gwendolyn is rare in historical fiction novels. She gains ground by the use of her skill (and we are not talking skills is bed) and tenacity. She puts others needs before her own and fights fiercely for those she is loyal to. Haltom’s character breaks the mold of traditional historical fiction women, and I loved it. Gwendolyn’s independence was certainly not valued by her country, but it never stopped her from doing what was right. Life is not easy, and she knows it. She does not complain or make excuses. Gwendolyn is strongly rooted in her logic, and the idea that she is descended from Arthur is absolutely absurd to her, so there is a lot of growth in the character as she learns to find glimmers of truth in myths and magic (something beyond her strength and her sword, which are things she can control and feel and which have brought her through life to a certain point in the story). Gwendolyn demonstrates a lot of different sides to courage in this novel. I enjoyed her spirit, wit, and heart. She understands her limits (yet does not limit herself by them), avoids judging those different from her, and is extremely observant. I think Gwendolyn is a delightful addition to strong women in fiction, and I would definitely approve of my daughter getting to know this character. This novel is without swearing or sexual situations which I highly value and appreciate.
I very eagerly await what’s to come. There was a lot of growth experienced by her characters, but there is also so much on the horizon that I’m just so excited to see what’s next! The things I am most excited for: (1) Gwendolyn meeting her husband again after years of separation and how her feelings have developed and changed, (2) how having a husband now in charge of the family lands will affect Gwendolyn’s role, and (3) the “visit” hinted at in the last lines of the book. Haltom brings the main storyline of the book to a satisfactory ending, but she definitely gives us a cliffhanger for things on the horizon.
"Descendants of Avalon"
Released via Inklings Publishing
("The Forgotten" volume 2)
Reviewed and awarded the
2016 Indie Editor's Choice
by the Historical Novel Society.
Long listed for the Historical Novel Society 2017 Indie Award.
Goodreads profile at: https://www.goodreads.com/JElse