In GUENEVERE, Rosalind Miles's first novel in her trilogy, examined, in great detail, Guenevere's relationship with Arthur and with the Knights of the Round Table. It touched on her relationship with Sir Lancelot, but did not explore it in any great depth. In KNIGHT OF THE SACRED LAKE, book two, Miles concentrates on the growing romance between Guenevere and Lancelot.
When we left Guenevere at the end of the first book, she was reconciled with Arthur. They still did not have their original relationship, that of lovers and soul mates. Instead, they had a more mature relationship, similar to any couple married for a significant length of time: partners and helpmates. While they were still loving, passion had taken a back seat in their relationship. Guenevere was determined to repair their relationship. She knew that in order to do that, she had to put aside her budding affair with Lancelot and focus on Arthur and ruling the country. At the end of GUENEVERE, she has determined that she will do just that and sends Lancelot away.
At the beginning of KNIGHT OF THE SACRED LAKE, a new group of young men are enduring the ritual of becoming knights. Most of the older knights stand guard, but Lancelot and his cousins, Bors and Lionel, are far from Camelot. They are planning to return to France, their homeland, because Guenevere, in an attempt to repair her marriage, has sent Lancelot away. To complicate matters, King Ursien has returned to Arthur to report that his wife and Arthur's sister, Morgan Le Fay, has disappeared along with her son Mordred.
Lancelot travels to visit the Lady of the Sacred Lake, sister to the Lady of Avalon and Lancelot's foster mother. She comforts and advises him, but cannot ease his pain at leaving Queen Guenevere unless she also makes him forget her love. Sir Lancelot chooses to remain grief-stricken, remembering his love for the queen, knowing that he will someday return to her.
KNIGHT OF THE SACRED LAKE is rich in detail and plot twists and characters. Merlin spends a great deal of the book searching for Mordred, hoping he can return him to his father as heir to the thrown before Morgan Le Fay can twist and color the boy's mind to only hate. Morgan herself spends much of the story teasing and torturing Merlin, and causing more pain and havoc for Arthur, Guenevere, and their knights.
Many of the Knights of the Round Table are, themselves, involved in intrigues and petty disputes. Agravain, Gawain's younger brother and Morgause's second son, bitterly resents the role Arthur played in his father, Lot's, death. But even more so, he despises the knight Sir Lamorak, assigned by Arthur to protect Morgause. He suspects that Lamorak has more influence over his mother than he does, and that he uses that influence to cuckold his late father. Little does Agravain realize that Morgause truly loves Lamorak and has only refused to marry him to avoid causing her sons more pain. In an attempt to make himself look better, Agravain stirs up trouble amongst the younger knights. When he is sent home to the Orkneys to visit his mother, he causes problems for her and Lamorak.
Throughout this second novel in the trilogy, Lancelot and Guenevere try to submerge their love for each other. Guenevere does so by trying to be a good, devoted wife to Arthur, nursing him through a devastating attack by Morgan Le Fay. However, she finds it impossible to remain faithful to her husband whenever Sir Lancelot returns to court. Lancelot cannot refuse Guenevere anything, whether it be traveling far from court whenever she banishes him, or sneaking to and from her bed when Arthur summons him back to court. Their ambivalence towards their love for each other and their loyalty to Arthur is the thread that weaves in and out the story.
While reading KNIGHT OF THE SACRED LAKE my only complaint was that Rosalind Miles's use of so many characters and plot twists became, at times, confusing. It is a good thing that at the end of the book is a list of all the characters and their roles, as well as a listing of all the places found in the book. I realize that much of the description adds to the beauty of the book, but a few of the minor subplots could have been eliminated. However, the novel left me wishing that the final part of the trilogy was closer to publication so that I might see how Guenevere, Arthur, Lancelot, and all the other major characters interact in the final years of Camelot.
Reviewed by Debbie Ann Weiner on June 12, 2001