Back in the fall of 1989, I entered my sophomore year of college. I claimed my major that fall, multiple subjects and English literature, and put together a plan to finish my degree in under 4 years. I registered for an overload of units because I was nerdy that way and driven by the desire to seek the knowledge before me. I registered with excitement in taking British Literature, Medieval Literature, Linguistics, Art for Children, Intro to Poli-Sci, and Math for the Elementary Teacher. Yes, I was a little insane in the course load and the copious amounts of reading I’d signed on for, but this is where I fell in love with old, middle, and modern English. The stories which were laden with social taboo and hidden messages became an obsession for dissecting them with each word and line subjected to scrutiny and purpose.
Arthurian legend was always an interest, but the semester I turned nineteen changed this curiosity to a die-hard research project. We didn’t have Google back then, and the librarian became my best friend! I traveled to neighboring college libraries in search of all things surrounding Camelot and the whispered airs of the Pagan rituals and the strength of women during the times of monarchy and courtly love. The twisted tales of secret love, adultery, incest and homosexuality so swiftly swept beneath the rug yet printed in words in such a way that only the super sleuths were able to uncover the hidden messages of love, and its entangled webs it wove throughout the early to middle ages, soon shut down with the Protestants and the hush of rituals in Catholicism and the Church of England.
But here I sit, twenty-eight years later, in awe of the prose unfolded before me in the New Camelot Series, by Sierra Simone. I spent the last week reading each book of the trilogy, American Queen, American, Prince, and American King, with my eyes hungrily eating up each word, each plot device, each figurative language infusion, and most of all each well-crafted allusion to the tales I’ve loved so dearly. Simone captures exactly the sentiments of this time and the coveted secrets sprinkled in the works of Malory, Chaucer, De amore, Bradley (a more recent view) and so many others. Each of these works alludes to polyamorist relationships and the roses which are threaded with thorns in the public’s eye of these heart-wrenching love triangles as well as the politics of leadership and commitment.
Ash, Greer, and Embry pulled at every angle possible and then some. There was no stone left unturned. The infusion of the entire tale exploded within the trilogy and there were moments of dramatic irony to which I was hoping would end any other way than what had already been divulged either through knowing so much about the legend or through the prophecies penned before my eyes. But to her strength and beautifully written tale, Simone keeps the legend alive and well with each well-structured event and brick by brick transition from medieval to modern times. The stabs at organized religion, the unconventional being looked down upon by the public, and yet the sweet desire of true love and a capacity to care for others in a world that is so cruel it hurts when opened and yet eats one alive when hidden in the shadows. I’m excited as much as torn down in living and breathing the world of Greer, Embry, and Ash. Now, here I sit knowing I’ll miss the journey as much as relish what these characters have given me in reigniting a love for the legend. This is quite the tribute to a time which I find both fascinating and frightening.
Yet in the end, I think Simone got it right. Despite the outward view of women of the time, they were/are stronger than most expect. Some could be/are ruthless and power-hungry while others sought to strengthen and partner to build the empires which were long-lasting. These women were and are not simple. They remain complex in nature able to snap the attention of the men who were/are their complementary partner. In some cases, the trio was/is stronger than the duo, and for those who find that piece which makes them whole, it develops a force which was/is unbreakable despite the narrow views of others. In the end, the rise to true power had nothing to do with financial gain but emotional fulfillment encompasses the ultimate freedom.
A thank you to Sierra Simone, from the bottom of my heart, for reawakening my love of Arthurian legend. There is nothing more sacred than reawakening the things that have laid dormant as life moves forward and priorities change one’s path. But for today, I sit and think about the history and the parallels of Camelot played out time and time again and enjoy reopening that piece of me which has lain dormant for so many years.
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