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After slogging through the ghastly "Queen of the Summer Country" and the beautiful but rather whiny "Guinevere," I was beginning to wonder if anyone could actually manage a good story, containing a semi-intelligent Queen Guinevere with honor and integrity, a tight plot, and a good writing style. Then I got my hands on a copy of "Dawnflight." Kim Headlee delves into history and humanity to produce a realistic (but not painfully so) story, something that you can envision actually happening.
The story centers around Pictish chieftainess Gyanhumara. When Roman forces defeat the armies of Caledonia (Scotland), Chieftain Ogryvan heads a general signing of a treaty with the Brydain lords - and among the conditions is that Gyanhumara must marry a Brydain noble.
The chief seeker of Gyanhumara's hand is Urien, who finds her attractive and is attractive somewhat himself. However, he is annoyed by the relatively emancipated manner of Gyanhumara, who is as comfy on the battlefield as in a hall full of ladies (more so, I thought). Gyanhumara is disgusted by his plans to tame her down, but in the interest of peace for her people, she agrees.
Then she meets Arthur, the Pendragon. With his questionable background, Arthur is not really acceptable as a potential husband for Gyanhumara, under the treaty. But the moment they meet, they love each other and, importantly, Arthur does not want to change Gyanhumara in any way. He intends to marry his beloved even if it causes conflicts -- but can she choose between her love and spirit, and the uncertain fate of her people?
Perhaps it's the author's excellent outlook toward Arthurian legend -- passing by religion, nationality, status, mythic background -- that causes her to do such a stellar job creating Gyanhumara as a strong, intelligent heroine. Her portrayals of the characters and politics of the time are excellent (as far as I can tell, I know virtually nothing about the clashes of the time) and the descriptions of fighting are easily-envisioned.
Too many supposedly strong heroines in Arthurian literature fail, becoming preachy and irritable. Gyanhumara thankfully doesn't fall into that trap, remaining a believable young woman who has simply been raised as an equal and excellent counterbalance to the strong men around her. I like the idea of Merlin's relationship to Arthur in this book, as I like Arthur himself. Too often, as Guinevere is seen as a slut, Arthur is seen as a wimp; fortunately, he's the young warlord he's expected to be.
Headlee's descriptions are more filled with metaphors than usual; "No nectar was as sweet as the joy of winning" is my personal favorite. The descriptiveness is slightly lower than I am used to in an Arthurian novel, but nevertheless it gets the images across.
Overall, this gains the label of "classic," simply for being the one Guinevere novel that portrays her as a real person. Bravo, Ms. Headlee!
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on 28 September 2015
As a lover of all things 'Arthurian', I was both looking forward to reading this book and also filled with trepidation in case I didn't enjoy it. I am pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the intricate weave of this tale.

Gyan is a strong Chieftainess who has to make a marriage match in order to prevent war. Unfortunately, from the start, she has her reservations about Urien but presses onwards for the sake of her clan. Gyan is a strong woman, a warrior-bred, and is not prepared to be the 'stay-at-home mom' that Urien wants her to be.

Filled with interesting characters and places, this is a book to be savoured. Kim Iverson Headlee has put her own twist on the tales of Arthur and made it fresh and fascinating once more. I look forward to reading more in this series.

* I received this book from Goddess Fish Promotions in return for a fair and honest review. *

Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!
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on 13 October 1999
Ms Headlee has done an admirable research job for her novel set in late 5th century Britain. She has grasped some of the important facts about the period, such as the various factions within the British contingent, in addition to the different categories of invaders. I am impressed by her clean prose, and clear narrative and I look forward to reading the further adventures of Gyan, Angusel, et al.
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on 31 July 1999
At the Battle of Aberglein, the Roman forces led by Arthur the Pendragon of Brydain defeat the combined armies of Caledonia. Among the defeated is the Chieftain of Argyll, Ogryvan, who forces his fellow Picts to agree to the peace treaty. A clause contained in the pact leads to Ogryvan's son Per serving under Arthur's leadership and his daughter Gyanhumara marrying a Brydain lord of her choice. Since Arthur has not been recognized as a Bryton noble due to his questionable birth, he cannot marry Gyan.
Urien, whose charge won the day at Aberglein, is the leading contender for the hand of Gyan. When they meet, there seems to be an attraction between them. However, Urien despises the warrior ways of his intended bride and plans to tame her. When Gyan meets Arthur, sparks fly. He does not want Gyan to change one iota. Instead, he informs his uncle Merlin that he plans to have Gyan at his side even though it may cause big trouble for the Brydains and the Picts. If she picks her cherished Arthur, civil war will follow. If she selects Urien, he will crush her spirit forever.
Sometimes the rewriting of the Arthur legend leaves fans with a classy romance that has the audience clamoring for more from the author. Kim Headlee provides a heady saga that tells the tale of Guinevere, a character that readers will fully understand. Arthur is also cleverly done as he is part of a Roman-Brydain world at odds with the Picts. The story line of DAWNFLIGHT moves forward with plenty of detail that makes for a fabulous historical romance that begs for more novels from Ms. Headlee.

Harriet Klausner
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on 10 February 2014
The story of Arthur and Guinevere told as never before, Dawnflight is epic!

Chieftainess Gyanhumera, leader of Caledonia, is betrothed to ensure peace and strenghten the bonds between clans. Soon she realizes her heart belongs not to her betrothed, but to the Pendragon--Arthur.

Will she follow her heart and face the possibility of war?

Packed full of action, with great attention to the detail of that time period, I commend Ms. Headlee for her beautiful work and highly recommend this novel to those who love the magic and lore of Arthurian legends.

I look forward to reading more in this series!
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on 21 March 2016
Too contrived with Arthurian legend
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