Speculative Fiction Reviews, Interviews, Art and Whatever Else!
I believe Knight of the White Hart is based on a poem (or Breton Lai) in the Lais of Marie De France entitled Guigemar, written in the late 12th century. Due to the relationship between book and lai, I found myself at a bit of a crossroad, as there are two avenues open to where the book might sit in the grand scheme of things!
If it wasn't a re-accounting of the poem, I would have been severely disappointed, because in general, apart from some beautiful wordery, it was a fairly dull tale containing some medieval instalove, overly repetitive notions and overwrought yearnings. There are some faults in the narrative (for example you can't claim to not know of a place and then know it's tales a few pages later), the pacing either drags or rushes with no in between. As historical fiction it was all over the place. Who would've thought King Arthur was around for the invasion of the Saxons, the Danes and then had a 12th century author in court (Capellanus)! England didn't even exist until the 11th century and the Saxons invaded Britain in the 5th, the Danes in the 9th. I know Arthur is more myth than man, but you still can't drag him about to suit your intricacies! I digress!
However! Knowing the poems history and it's stylisation, I can see where Knight of The White Hart is coming from. If the poem was a novel, instead of Octosyllabic verse, it probably would have been written much like this. And the novel is true to the Lais in almost every way, though with a few additives to round out that storyline (the muddled history and I don't think the evil husband was a mage either, but it's been a while!).
And thus the dilemma, how to review it!? As a reworking of the poem, I'd say it did a pretty good job fleshing it out and sticking pretty true to Marie de France's overall flair for the dramatic medieval Arthurian romance. Ladies swoon for the amour and the men all want to be the brave knight triumphing over evil. A bit of medieval Mills and Boon for the Arthurian set of the 12th century. So in that regard, I'd give Marlowe credit where credit is due! It is definitely a pretty piece and she is obviously well studied in the works of medieval romances. I'd probably give it 4 stars.
As a work of standalone contemporary historical romance (sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, but you get my drift!), I'd say it fails to give much of anything. It just doesn't take into account the discerning minds of modern readers, who like a bit of meat on the bones of their books. I'd give it 2.
I wonder if Marlowe plans to continue to create novels of Marie De France's poems in the series? I'd definitely check them out, I am a bit nostalgic!
I guess, you need to take it for what it is, rather than what you might expect it to be. Maybe it just needs a better description/synopsis so readers know what they are in for. So middle ground 3 stars, definitely read it if you like medieval romances of yore, stay away if you are looking for historical romance of now!