A servant of one of King Arthur's most trusted men helps thwart an evil plot. Kingdom of Summer is the second novel in Gillian Bradshaw's trilogy/interpretation of the King Arthur legend. Each book is presented from the viewpoint of a different character, in this case Rhys ap Sion, a servant of Gwalchmai ap Lot (the focus of the first novel, Hawk of May).
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Rhys first meets Gwalchmai (a son of a king, Arthur's nephew and a peerless cavalry warrior famed throughout Britain and beyond) when the latter rests from a mid-winter search in Rhys's clan's householding. Longing to be more than a farmer, Rhys persaudes Gwalchmai into taking him to Camlann (i.e. Camelot). He soon becomes Gwalchmai's servant and trusted friend.
Arthur sends Gwalchmai as his ambassador to King Maelgwn, one of Arthur's many enemies; Rhys accompanies him. Gwalchmai discovers that his estranged parents, King Lot and the sorceress Morgawse, as well as his younger half-brother Medraut, are in league with Maelgwn. He tries to uncover what they are plotting against Arthur. Meanwhile, Rhys becomes friendly with Eivlin, Morgawse's pretty servant.
Morgawse has Rhys kidnapped and uses magic in trying to turn him against his master, but Rhys resists. Eivlin helps him escape, even though she knows that Morgawse will cast a spell and kill her. When Eivlin is struck down, a desperate Rhys takes her to a nunnery. (There Rhys discovers the woman Gwalchmai had been searching for.) Rhys is found by Medraut and taken back to Morgawse. Gwalchmai and his mother then engage in a magical battle of wills, which he wins.
Rhys tells Gwalchmai that he has found Elidan, the woman Gwalchmai loves. With great reluctance, she agrees to see him. Years before, while acting as Arthur's emissary to King Bran (another of Arthur's enemies), he had seduced Elidan, Bran's sister. When she became pregnant, Bran had an excuse to rebel. He was defeated in battle, and Gwalchmai killed him personally, despite promising Elidan otherwise. As a result, Elidan rejected Gwalchmai and disappeared. The years have not altered her bitterness, and he cannot effect a reconciliation or receive forgiveness. He does, however, save Eivlin's life.
Meanwhile, Gwalchmai's older brother, Agravain, kills their mother to avenge Lot, killed suddenly by magic. Before she succumbs, she tells Medraut who his real father is: her own half-brother Arthur. She tells him to go to Camlann, and the seeds of Arthur's downfall are planted.
Best part of story, including ending:
Bradshaw's characters are fully drawn out. Gwalchmai, while properly heroic, is a tortured individual. The details of everyday life also add great verisimilitude (you don't see that word every day) to the story.
Best scene in story:
When Elidan refuses to show any Christian mercy or tenderness to her former lover (despite being a nun), it is a powerful scene.
Opinion about the main character:
Rhys is a very down-to-earth, yet idealistic person.