Rose Knot: An Arthurian Tale by Kari Sperring (book review).

Not many people connect the Orkneys to Arthurian legend but King Lot of Orkney was married to Arthur’s sister, Morgause, it seems and the sons of Lot were in King Arthur’s court. They are Agravaine, Medraut, Gaheris and Gareth, who is married to Llinos, the narrator of this tale.

The opening is rather off-putting with Llinos dressing up for a feast and talking to Esslytt, Queen of Cornwall, about past events, uttering a cascade of names that mean nothing at this stage. Persist, reader, for it will become clear in time. Llinos is happily married to Gareth, a knight. He has a sometimes fractious relationship with his brothers but the Orkneys are essentially a tight-knit family.

Llinos loses a child shortly after this. Grief-stricken, she retires to her home at Kinkenadron, leaving her husband for a year. She has to return when summoned by Queen Guinevere for a feast. Sometime earlier, a prank had been played in which the ladies of Camelot were tricked into a fidelity test. Perhaps in revenge, Esslytt arranges a similar test for the men. She sends Guinevere a magic horn. Only those men who have been faithful to their lady for the past year and a day can make it sound. A few fail. There are repercussions.

As the author holds a B.A. and a PhD in medieval history from Cambridge University, the reader is in safe hands for authenticity. She knows the ropes, dresses, armour, customs and weapons of the time. Camelot isn’t real history, of course, but the background furniture is the same. The book is a pleasant, easy read and the characters are realistic, flawed human beings who do things they regret and pay the price. The theme is love, which is nice.

For doing, singing and being where you’re meant to be, love is all you need, they say, but romance is not really my thing. Offered something Arthurian to review, I was expecting more swords than seduction. Even so, I read it with pleasure and do not regret the experience. It’s wise to widen your horizons now and then and ‘Rose Knot’ is a good story.

Had it been longer, I might have grown bored but, at a hundred pages, these Newcon Press novellas are just perfect. Long enough for a tale to sink your teeth into but still succinct and sharp. I note, too, that Newcon is doing the ebook versions much cheaper than the paper. It’s worth checking a few out, including ‘Rose Knot’ by Kari Sperring.

Eamonn Murphy

August 2021

(pub: Newcon Press. 100 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-912950-93-6. Ebook: £ 3.99 (UK))

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