Reviewed for THC Reviews Princess of Bretagne is the first book in Vijaya Schartz's new medieval fantasy series, The Curse of the Lost Isle. This book...moreReviewed for THC Reviews Princess of Bretagne is the first book in Vijaya Schartz's new medieval fantasy series, The Curse of the Lost Isle. This book and the series in general is steeped in Celtic history and lore, and also has a basis in Arthurian legends too. Ms. Schartz brings the setting to life with the use of authentic period details regarding warfare and day to day life in a medieval fortress and a Viking camp, some of which can be rather dark and gritty. She also draws on the mythology of the era as the people's beliefs in the gods of old are challenged by the growth and proselytizing of the Christian church. The clashing of these religions poses a dangerous threat to the heroine of the story who is pagan. There is also a political dimension to the story, not only in regards to religion, but also as the tribes of Briton find themselves invaded by Vikings and in growing need of a high king to unite them.
Pressine of Bretagne is one of the Ladies of the Lost Isle, women who are immortal and part fae. They serve the will of their Goddess and in this case, Pressine has been chosen to marry King Elinas of Dumfries. It has been prophesied that she will help him to unite all of Briton to become the high king of Alba and defeat their Viking invaders. Pressine is slightly reluctant at first, worrying that the king might be an unattractive, old man, but upon meeting him, she is quite drawn to him. Elinas is thirty-five, and while Pressine's age is never given, I know by the customs of the time, that she was likely quite young. Pressine is a little different than Ms. Schartz's other female leads I've read to date, in that she isn't exactly a kick-butt heroine. She doesn't wield a sword or physically fight, but she does have a strong spirit and is cool under pressure. She also takes her responsibilities very seriously, and doesn't want to use her powers unless absolutely necessary. I liked that she delayed binding the king's soul to hers through his sword and instead won his heart with her own natural charms. Pressine has many gifts and talents, as well as a curse, none of which have been fully tapped yet, so I'll be interested to see where things lead for her in the next book of the series.
King Elinas is a brave and honorable man who is still mourning the loss of his beloved queen when Pressine arrives at his fortress. I thought that he did fall for Pressine rather quickly under the circumstances and the courtship was a little too short for my taste, but their interactions were sweet and loving. Elinas is a strong warrior on the battlefield but a kind and gentle man with Pressine. He is very protective of her and treats her as a woman of worth and not just an inferior. Sadly, though he is blind to the machinations of his oldest son who is a zealous Christian harboring hatred for Pressine and her kind, believing them to be instruments of the devil.
There are some strong secondary characters who get their own point-of-view scenes and almost as much page time as the hero and heroine. Pressine's brother, Gwenvael, renounced his mystical powers to become a Christian monk, but he is more accepting of people of various backgrounds and faiths than many Christians of the era. He willingly goes with a Viking warrior hoping to turn some of the Vikings to his beliefs, and ends up becoming a valued member of their camp. He enjoys a minor romance with a slave woman in the Viking camp. Bodvar, the Viking whom Gwenvael accompanied, is a rough, battle-scarred warrior who leads an invasion against Briton. With his barbaric ways he's not an easy man to like, and perhaps, I'm not supposed to. I'm glad that he has treated Gwenvael well, but ultimately, he's a much better antagonist than a hero. In any case, I'm sure we haven't seen the last of him yet.
It took me a little while to get into the story, mainly because things seemed to move at breakneck speed for the first few chapters, leaving little time to get to know and like the characters. As I already mentioned the romance was a little too quick as well. To some extent, I've come to expect this from Vijaya Schartz's novels, as they tend to be more plot-driven than character-driven, but once I started getting more insights into the characters' motivations, I gradually became more engaged. The exciting battles and period details also drew me in as did the intrigue surrounding Elinas' son trying to prevent him from marrying Pressine. Overall, Princess of Bretagne was a solid story that I enjoyed reading. I'm very much looking forward to finding out what's next for Elinas and Pressine when the series continues with the release of Pagan Queen.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.(less)