Pendragon’s Heir by Suzannah Rowntree: A Review
Do you know what the mark of a really great book is? It’s when you literally squeal as you are reading because it is so exciting... but it’s not just that. It’s when you have that great feeling of sheer bliss because of the happy ending when you put it down... but not just that either. Even more than the experience of reading it, the mark of a great book is when you put it back on the shelf and go on with your life, only to realize that the book molded you into a different person; a person stronger in your faith and more resolute to serve God, no matter what the cost. That, my friends, is a great book.
And now, I have the privilege of introducing you to one such book.
Pendragon’s Heir by Australian author, Suzannah Rowntree, is set in the midst of Arthurian legend, pulling characters like King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Sir Percival from their dusty but exciting pages. Blanche Pendragon, the heroine, enjoys her undemanding life as the ward of an eccentric nobleman in 1900 England. It's been years since she wondered what happened to her long lost parents, but then a gift on the night of her eighteenth birthday reveals a heritage more dangerous and awe-inspiring than she ever dreamed of— or wanted. Soon Blanche is flung into a world of wayfaring immortals, daring knights, and deadly combats, with a murderous witch-queen on her trail and the future of a kingdom at stake. As the legendary King Arthur Pendragon and his warriors face enemies without and treachery within, Blanche discovers a secret that could destroy the whole realm of Logres. Even if the kingdom could be saved, is she the one to do it? Or is someone else the Pendragon's Heir?
Why I Loved Pendragon’s Heir
I was actually surprised by how much I loved Pendragon’s Heir. It’s hard to get this non-fiction reader to enjoy a fictional book these days, however, this was an engaging exception. I literally had to force myself to put the book down, and ended up reading the entire thing in two days! I haven’t done that since I was 11 years old when reading C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy. As much as I enjoyed reading the book, I had no idea that it had impacted me so deeply until a week later when I realized that it had ignited a spark inside me- a spark of absolute resolve to follow my King, no matter how hard life gets or what sacrifices I have to make.
One thing I specifically appreciated was the tone of the book. I grew up devouring The Chronicles of Narnia, and have always loved the way they inspired me to nobility. Pendragon’s Heir had that same spirit, but I was challenged by how the plot just kept getting worse and worse! Because it dealt so well with trials and hardship, and being faced with giving up everything for what you know is right, it impacted me in a way no other fictional book has. I usually only get that conviction and challenge from reading non-fiction. I would describe it as a mature Narnia, which I thoroughly appreciated.
There was one part particularly, where the heroine faced utter loss if she did what was right. I thought I knew how the scene would end, but it turned out quite differently than I expected, and was nothing short of spiritually inspiring. Last but not least, my very favorite aspect was Sarras (the fictional equivalent of the new heavens and the new earth), and how Suzannah tied in themes from Augustine’s The City of God.
"The book avoids moral compromise... but that doesn't prevent Suzannah from tackling adult issues in a mature manner. Adultery, betrayal, and illegitimacy are all themes she addresses, especially with the Lancelot and Guinevere plot. Witchcraft and the limits of its ability is another significant theme in the story. If you're comfortable with Lewis and Tolkien, or Arthurian legends themselves for that matter, you should be fine with Pendragon's Heir.” I was really pleased with how these themes were resolved in the end, but parents are encouraged to review the book for suitability for younger ages as some mature themes are raised.
Now, months later, I still find myself thinking about Logres and Sarras, and the angst I experienced as I wrestled with the hardships and sacrifies that the characters were facing. I asked myself while reading, “Would I make the same choice? Is it worth it?” I came away with a solemn “Yes.” stamped indelibly on my mind.
I couldn’t wait to read the book to my siblings, so we are about halfway through, reading a couple of chapters every week during our “tower time” (our sibling party night, up in my attic bedroom). They are on the edges of their seats to see how things end! I pray it will strengthen and inspire them as much as it did me. Thank you, Suzannah, for writing such an encouraging book. I am stirred to get out and give my all for the kingdom of God- no matter what the cost.
Stay tuned for a Byte-Sized interview with the author, Suzannah Rowntree sometime next week!