A nice holiday gift for any historical novel lover is this third and final book in Anna Elliott’s Twilight of Avalon trilogy. The Sunrise of Avalon tells the finale of the romance of Tristan and Isolde, major players in the King Arthur legends.
In addition to a satisfying ending to the series, romance aficionados will appreciate the lovers’ union. Any reader will painlessly absorb an enormous amount of details about sixth century Britain (neither England nor the United Kingdom then). It was a time when the island was divided into warring kingdoms in the literal sense.
Inextricably woven with Tristan and Isolde’s tale of forbidden love are battles, bloodshed, and brutality. So much brutality! Even the events of daily life were unthinkably harsh to our modern eyes and ears. Those weren’t the only senses that would have been offended. The odors alone might drive one mad!
Elliott has re-imagined the Arthurian legend into a more realistic chain of events when a heroic Queen Isolde pairs with the inveterate defender of the crown, Tristan, a Saxon mercenary whom she married in secret. They venture to prevent a tyrant, Lord Marche, from becoming king and place the High King Madoc on the British throne.
Intrigue, kidnapping, mysterious secret missions — and an unborn child figure in the desperate attempts to save Britain from the invaders intent on toppling the royal bloodline from the throne and gaining a few more square miles of turf. Lord Marche teams up with Octa of Kent (also a Saxon) in this episode to prevent Madoc from destroying both their kingdoms, at least politically.
Perhaps by the time a series reader reaches this final book, the cast of characters, their tangled relationships, and the geographic and political lay of the land is clearly in mind. Nonetheless, it is helpful to have the information condensed into the book’s front material. Reading Sunrise of Avalon without having seen the first two books requires, for some, constant referral to the character list and a map to try to remain oriented. Just comprehending even the actions and their meanings is hampered without this basic information.
The author became enchanted with the Dark Age of Britain, the time she felt most likely for the Arthurian legend’s events to have taken place. That period was much different from the courtly 12th century medieval era when the Tristan and Isolde stories developed.
However, the Twilight of Avalon trilogy, including Dark Moon of Avalon, does not resemble what most readers may have in mind when they imagine the star-crossed lovers as depicted in Richard Wagner’s opera, Tristan und Isolde, with it’s heart-breakingly beautiful music. That 19th century piece was based on a 13th century German romance. It would be interesting to see Wagner’s work set in this Avalon period and hear if the melodies still fit.