June 26, 2012

The Wicked Day by Mary Stewart

Title: The Wicked Day
Author: Mary Stewart

Format: PB
Pages: 358
Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Fawcett, 1984
Series: Merlin, Book 4

Favorite Quotes:  So died Morgause, witch-queen of Lothian and Orkney, leaving by her death and its manner another hellbrew of trouble for her hated brother.

It was war.  This was the day.  This was the wicked day of destiny.

Synopsis:  The Wicked Day is the gripping story of Mordred, bastard son of King Arthur by incest with his half-sister Morgause, witch-queen of Lothian and Orkney. Morgause sent the child to the Orkney Islands to be reared there in secret, in the hope that one day he would become, as Merlin the Enchanter had prophesied, the doom of her hated half-brother.

When Mordred is taken from his rude life as a fisherboy in the islands and suddenly thrust into the full panoply of the High King Arthur's court, he learns of his true parentage and rises to a position of trust in his father's kingdom. But, as the plots and counterplots of the last part of Arthur's reign unfold, Mordred is drawn into the tangled web of tragedy that is the climactic drama of the Arthurian legend.

The Wicked Day breathtakingly displays Mary Stewart's extraordinary gift for bringing the obscure past to life. Her characters are unforgettable: the young Mordred, whose close bond with his father arouses dire jealousies in the High Court at Camelot; his malevolent mother; her four unruly sons by King Lot; King Arthur himself, his Queen Guinevere, his trusted friend Bedwyr; and the warring factions that seek to bring down the bastions of Arthur's new confederation of Britain.

As she did in her earlier Arthurian novels, Mary Stewart challenges the accepted legends in this stirring and danger-ridden tale. Was Mordred in truth a traitor--or the victim of implacable fate? Mary Stewart's view brings tremendous emotional impact to the drama, as Merlin's prophecy hangs broodingly over each moment and the action plays itself out inexorably to the final, wicked day . . .

Review:  I'm so glad to see Mordred portrayed not as some chillingly insane and evil villain.  It's refreshing to find an author who sees that sometimes destiny forces you to do things you'd rather not.  Both Mordred and Arthur are dead now, the Saxons are in Britain, and there is only one more book left by this author about this topic.  I'm not sure what to expect, but I'm looking forward to perhaps a more happy ending.

I liked this book, very nearly as well as any of them but not quite.  I didn't like knowing that Arthur was going to die.

Rating:  9 / 10

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