Lackey states in the afterword that she based her Arthurian tale on Welsh legends of not one, but three, queens named Gwenhwyfar. This theory does tend to clear up some of the conflicting tales of Arthur’s queen. In her novel, Lackey focuses on the third queen.
This is a pleasant read. Which seems to be the norm for Lackey’s novels lately. There is none of the emotional depth of her early novels. The heroine is one of those disgustingly well-behaved and self-aware children, who grows up into the same kind of adult. Everything seems to come easy to her. In fact, plot events in general are rather too convenient. The characters are all decently fleshed out, but seem flat, with one exception. The only character that stands out is Gwen’s vicious and vindictive younger sister. My main complaint, aside from the lack of three dimensional characters, is that the story isn’t exciting. There is no tension here, even in the spots that Lackey is clearly intending there to be tension.
The book has a different feel than most Lackey books, perhaps due to the historical legends the story is based upon, but still has her familiar feel and voice. The writing is clean, and the plot moves along smoothly. All the usual Arthurian characters are present, or at least named. If you like the Arthurian tragedy, it’s here, to some extent. Gwenhwyfar is an acceptable book if you just want a light read without having to think or feel too much. It doesn’t break any new ground or rise above mediocrity.