My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"You train for it - day in, day out, snow or sleet or pouring rain. How to fight with a sword. Handle a shield. Throw a knife. Ride a horse into battle. You practice every day until you can barely stand up you're so tired at the end of it all. But you keep going. You get better. Better able to aim a spear, wield a sword. And then you actually fight a battle one day. And you realize that all of it - your whole life - has been directed at just one thing: teaching you how to kill. And that's all you know. How to fight to the death and win." - Dark Moon of Avalon by Anna Elliott
Dark Moon of Avalon is the second book in Anna Elliott's trilogy based on the legend of Trystan and Isolde.
Free from her forced marriage to the nasty King Marche, Isolde once again takes up the role of healer in the infirmary at Dinas Emrys, under the watchful eye of new High King Madoc and the Council. Skirmishes are taking place daily between Britain and the Saxons, and with British Kings having turned their coats to side with the enemy, Britain is in desperate need of reliable allies.
Isolde decides that their only hope of beating the Saxon forces lies in King Cerdic, a Saxon king who was once allied with her long-deceased father, Modred. Enlisting Trystan as her guide and guard, she persuades King Madoc to let her make the dangerous treck through Saxon territory in order to meet with King Cerdic.
In love with Isolde but haunted by past battles and time spent as a slave, Trystan believes himself unworthy of her, although to the reader it is clear that Isolde feels the same way about him as he does of her. However, Isolde carries deep scars from her marriage to Marche, and fears that events in her past would diminish any affection that Trystan might hold for her. The journey they take together to find King Cerdic and secure his support for their cause becomes a journey of righting past wrongs and learning how to mend old wounds so they can start to face a possible future together.
Aside from a little repetition, Dark Moon of Avalon is an otherwise well-researched and beautifully written story that the author pieces together almost perfectly. Elliott's characters are wonderfully developed and impeccably brought to life, so much so that my favourite happens to be Cabal the war hound. For me these characters became so familiar that I needed to spend every waking hour with them, and then when I slept they joined me in my dreams. By the time I'd finished the book I felt I knew them inside-out, as if they were old friends! It was impossible not to dive straight into the final book...
The authors passion for her characters and the story being told is evident, and to quote my review of Twilight of Avalon - an opinion I wholeheartedly share for Dark Moon...: "Anna Elliott has pulled Trystan and Isolde out of the depths of legend and placed them in an historical context that makes the characters and events of this story appear real, tangible and believable, weaving through it just enough magic to maintain the element of mystique and intrigue that brought about the legend in the first place".
I highly recommend this book, but please note that it should only be read in its correct order (after Twilight of Avalon and before Sunrise of Avalon), otherwise it will likely end up being confusing and the emotional effect of the story as a whole will be lost.