E.A. Haltom, author
Cornwall, England, 1193. Eleanor of Aquitaine, the indomitable dowager queen, has ordered all of England onto a war footing while her son King Richard languishes in a German dungeon. When Gwendolyn de Cardinham happens upon mercenaries from Prince John's rebellion, she draws her sword and defends her home as well as any knight could have. But more of John's mercenaries are coming, her sister-in-law claims Gwendolyn’s husband has died on crusade, and the local prior has absurdly informed Gwendolyn that King Arthur’s fabled sword is destined to be hers. Self-educated and martially trained, Gwendolyn gave her husband her oath to guard and protect their estate of Penhallam while he fought in the crusade. Gwendolyn travels to London with her constable to present herself to the dowager queen. But Gwendolyn has a secret that could put all of Penhallam—and herself—at risk if the queen discovers it.
Haltom’s debut novel weaves Arthurian fantasy into the vivid reality of 1193 Cornwall and London. Gwendolyn de Cardinham, whose husband is imprisoned with King Richard, decides to learn sword fighting so that she can defend her estate of Penhallam. The discovery that her husband’s ambitious brother is allied with the rebellious Prince John leads Gwendolyn to a local prior, who claims that she is the descendant of King Arthur and destined to wield the fabled sword Caliburn. With the assistance of her constable, William, sworn to protect her since she was a child, and the onetime mercenary Nigel, Gwendolyn travels to London to pledge her sword to the dowager queen Eleanor, using her position as the supposed heir of Arthur as bait for John’s rebels. The historical aspects are very well done, and Gwendolyn and William sit comfortably alongside well-known royals and schemers. The fantastical elements are more unexpected but do not distract from the strength of the main characters. The ending satisfies while setting up a sequel. (BookLife)