It’s no secret that I read, watch and listen to anything I can find about Arthurian legend. Combine that with my love of strong female characters and Alice Borchardt’s “The Dragon Queen” seemed like the perfect match for me.
I was wrong…but that doesn’t take away from how much of a badass Guinevere is.
“The Dragon Queen” follows the development of King Arthur’s future queen. Guinevere is the daughter of a Pagan queen and, considered threatening to her people, gets banished and handed off to the protection of a werewolf — er, shapeshifter. The evil warlock Merlin wants to prevent her destiny, so they do the best they can to protect her.
But, Guinevere isn’t just a pretty little princess — she’s a warrior queen, perfectly capable of traveling to the Underworld or the Otherworld or just across England and surviving. She’s got the protection of dragons, wolf-men and her dearest friends.
When Merlin banishes Arthur to a world of death in an attempt to control the world around him, Guinevere must take all her strength and “prove that she’s worthy of being Arthur’s queen.”
At least, that’s what it says in the official summary of the book; I don’t know why Guinevere doesn’t just kill everybody else and take the throne. She’d be one hell of a great queen in her own right. But no, they have to stick to Arthurian legend and make Arthur the one to bring the peace with the help of Guinevere.
But ignoring the need to prove that she’s worthy of a man — cue the feminist Hulk rage — it’s an interesting book. The take on Arthurian legend and the twists (Merlin being evil, Morgana being good, the dragons, the different worlds, etc.) definitely threw me. In that way, I enjoyed it.
There were some scenes that felt abruptly unneeded, particularly ones with Merlin. You can have an evil warlock without having him magically seducing and raping a young boy. For a character that was supposed to be slightly funny but evil, it put a sour tinge on the whole book. Maybe that was the point — to show how bad Guinevere’s world was and just why she had to rescue Arthur and be so strong.
But honestly? It just made me want to vomit a bit because it didn’t add anything to the story. I think rape should never just be a plot point and that’s what it felt like here.