The Last Pendragon: A Tale of Dark Age Wales
By Sarah Woodbury
Rhiann’s father, the King of Gwynedd, is a cruel man and sees her only virtue as what she can bring him through marriage. She spends her dreary days turning down any available man her father brings to his hall. As a bastard child, her choices are running low and she may find herself married to the next man her father brings to his hall. When Cadwaladr (Cade), the last of the Pendragons, is drug bleeding into her father’s hall, she’s stunned by his appearance. When she is sent to help him with his wounds and he refuses her help, Rhiann finds she wants to help him even more. With the help of her stepmother, who also happens to be Cadwaladr’s mother, she escapes with him. She soon finds out that he’s not exactly who she thought he was. He’s brave, prepared to fight, a man born to lead men, and he’s also not quite human.
Many re-tellings of Arthurian legend tend to include some form of the supernatural. It’s sometimes magic used by Merlin, some form of a seer, the sword which in some stories is pulled from an enchanted stone or is given to Arthur by a goddess. In others, Morgaine or Morgan le Fay, Arthur’s sister, is the one in possession of the magical abilities and there is usually a goddess that has chosen Arthur, or his decedents, for the task of reuniting the people of his land, and more often than not, Saxons are involved. Woodbury includes most of these elements in some fashion, and while I tend to prefer the non-magical Arthurian legend stories, this one has an interesting twist that made it appealing. Cade is a form of a daemon which makes him invincible to a degree baring his head doesn’t become dislodged from his body or his heart pierced. Cade also feels drained by the sunlight and while clearly not a vampire, felt a little too close for me in terms of symptoms/afflictions.
I like character driven stories and once I become attached, even if I was a little leery, I stayed till the end. One thing that did bother me, and bothered me a lot, was this — the names were all very similar. I appreciate that the author was staying true to the story by using Welsh names, even if I can’t pronounce them, but they were all too similar and it took me a long time to get them straight. Even Cade’s horse’s name (Cadfan) was too close to his own name for me.
I was in a slight reading slump when I picked this one up. I was thoroughly relying on my love of Arthurian legend to pull me through. It did. It won’t rank high on my list of best of Arthurian legend stories but it was an interesting re-telling.