I can still remember standing in the school library, aged about 14, stuck for a new book to read. I had outgrown the pony stories I loved as a child and found most of the romantic girly stuff boring. There was no YA genre then… you made the leap from children’s books to adult (and the more interesting adult books were not in our school library!) I was beginning to despair, when the school librarian took pity on me and pulled a book off the shelf called The Crystal Caveby Mary Stewart. “You might like this…” she said. How did she know? Enchanted, I read my first novel about Merlin and King Arthur, and to my joy discovered there were two more in the trilogy – The Hollow Hills (Merlin Trilogy 2)and The Last Enchantment. I became a fan on the spot.
That was my introduction to Arthurian fiction and a whole new genre... that of fantasy/SF. When I left school and went to University, I discovered a second-hand bookstall in the local market with piles of similar titles containing magic and adventure. I read JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings about ten times, wishing that one of the hobbits had been a girl, and began to look out for my favourite fantasy authors, who included Anne McCaffrey and Ursula Le Guin I also read Marion Zimmer Bradley and came to know and love her work through her science fiction. So a few years later, when I spotted someone on the bus reading a book called The Mists of Avalon by Marion Bradley, my ears pricked up.
The cover was beautiful, and it was a sprawling, magical romance set in the time of King Arthur but told by the women of Camelot… Morgan le Fay, Queen Guinevere, Igraine. What was more, it turned out to be by my Marion Zimmer Bradley, who had apparently dropped the “Zimmer” to reach a new audience. In that fat novel, I discovered what I had been unconsciously searching for since age 14… a spiritual, female side to the Arthurian stories and adventures, with strong heroines and the perfect blend of magic and history. There was no King Arthur’s daughter in that book, but there might easily have been.
Skip on a few years, and I started writing short stories of my own and joined the British Fantasy Society. In one of their infamous raffles, I won a two-book Arthurian series by one of the founder members of the Tolkien Society, Vera Chapman – Enchantressesand Three Damsels – actually two collections of three novellas each. Enchanted all over again, I started reading these books on the train home and discovered tightly-written adventures about King Arthur’s women, including for the first time the idea of King Arthur having a daughter (the princess Ursulet in those stories).
As Vera Chapman says in her introduction: “Nobody can say that King Arthur did NOT have a daughter. King’s daughters, unless they make dynastic marriages, are apt to slip out of history and be ignored.” Quite so. And it seems entirely reasonable to me for a daughter to join the more famous ladies of King Arthur’s court mentioned in Thomas Malory’s classic Morte D'Arthur, whose stories have been retold for younger readers in Mary Hoffman’s beautifully illustrated Women of Camelot .
Many years later my debut novel Song Questwas published (Element 1999, reissued this month by Catnip), and I became a fantasy author myself, though for children rather than adults. I wrote a series of historical fantasies set around the Seven Wonders of the World (now out of print but available as ebooks for Kindle). Still, I didn’t feel ready to tackle King Arthur in my own work, having by then read my way through what seemed to be an entire Arthurian genre when it became fashionable back in the 80s, and thinking there was nothing new I could add.
Then in 2007, I had a break in contracts and started to write a story about a warrior princess set in Celtic Britain. She began life as one of Queen Boudicca’s daughters, but the rape scene proved too challenging for children’s publishers and the historical angle proved too constraining for me. At which point I remembered that novella of Vera Chapman’s and lightning struck... what if I combined my love of epic fantasy with the legends of King Arthur, and wrote a fantasy series about his daughter for younger readers?
So Rhianna Pendragon, Dark Age warrior princess, was born.
Title: Sword of LightSeries: Pendragon LegacyAuthor: Katherine RobertsPublisher: Templar PublishingPublication Date: 1 Feb 2012Synopsis from GoodreadsIt is the darkest hour of the darkest Age. King Arthur is dead, killed by his wicked nephew, Mordred. Saxon invaders rampage across the land and forces of evil are gathering. The path to the throne lies open to Arthur's only remaining flesh and blood - Mordred. But there is one with a better claim than Mordred - Arthur's secret child. Brought by Merlin to enchanted Avalon as a baby and raised there for protection, the king's heir must take up a vital quest: to search for the four magical Lights with the power to restore Arthur's soul to his body. Introducing Rhianna Pendragon: unlikely princess and Camelot's last hope.