Let’s be honest: I felt faintly ridiculous carrying this book around town. It has the word “Camelot” in the title. It has a woman in a medieval dress on the cover. And swirly things.
It was my mother that got me into reading romance, although she probably doesn’t know it. She banned me from reading her books when I was around 12, so of course I read every single one.
Some romances are so unbelievably ridiculous that you’ve got to laugh while you read them. (Like, for example, Baby Bonanza. Yes, I read it. It was free!)
But Camelot’s Blood doesn’t fall into that category. It was a fast, entertaining read, despite some of the expected clichés. Great escapism, with original retakes on classic fantasy creatures, and an interesting clash between pagan magic and Christianity.
The story follows the marriage between Laurel Carnbrea, Queen of Cambryn, and Sir Agravain, son of Morgause and brother of Sir Gawain. It is a marriage of duty, not love, and it is the honour to duty that first binds them together. But before the marriage can be consummated, a messenger arrives with bad news: Agravain’s father, King Lot, is dying, and he must return to his homeland of Gododdin. The two set off together on a risk-filled journey to Gododdin, only to find a land in shambles and under threat of invasion. Leading the invasion is the evil Morgaine and her son Morderd. Laurel has powers of her own, but they may not be enough for what is coming….
The plot expands far beyond a simple romance. As a matter of fact, I thought the romance portions a little flat and formulaic: knight and lady are arranged to be married, lady breaks through the knight’s hard shell, they fall in love, yaddayadaa. What drew me in was the bigger story: the impending war, and, most of all, Laurel’s struggles with her not-entirely-human bloodline, a plot thread that actually made me cry at one point.
As for the setting, I’m not much of a history buff, so am not particularly knowledgeable or critical of Arthurian reworkings, but I did get a sense of the period, and it appeared well-researched to me, blending both history and legend. I liked the details: the descriptions of Londinium, of people’s clothes, the cultural attitudes and expectations.
The writing is not the greatest, but it is pretty solid throughout. I was sceptical at the beginning due to the numerous scene jumps in the first few chapters, but that settled down quite quickly. Unfortunately, there is quite a lot of head-hopping throughout the book, and whilst it is done pretty smoothly, point of view switches are one of my pet peeves.
Apparently, this book is one of a series. And it’s not even the first in the series. It’s a credit to the book that I was able to pick it up and enjoy it without knowing anything about what had happened before.
In sum, it’s easy reading, and fun. It’s not going to change the world, but would you want every book to do that?