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GAWAIN by J.P. Harker

Gawain is the first book of the new series by JP Harker, author of Caledon Saga. Gawain follows the early lives of Arthur’s knights and the eventual formation of Camelot. Fast-paced, historically grounded re-imagining of Arthurian myth, it is focusing on a flawed hero and a sympathetic antagonist. It takes place in a semi-fantasized Dark Age Britain. Here, Romanized nations clash with each other, with the remnants of the Celtic peoples, and with the slowly encroaching Saxons.

In this book a young Gawain is embarking on his first test as a future warrior of Camelot. After accepting his challenge at the Beltane feast, Gawain defies his father to travel north and face this new enemy, unaware that the Picts are massing for an attack on his father’s kingdom. Leading them is Mhari, a tribal chief with her own goals and dreams for the north. The courage and morality of both characters is challenged, culminating in a final conflict where Gawain inadvertently proves his worth to a disguised Merlin. Themes include religion (the mixed Christian and Pagan world), temptation versus nobility, and sexual morality.

Title : Gawain
Author : J.P. Harker
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 344
Genre : Historical Fantasy
Publisher : Adelaide Books
Release Date : May 28, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★

Micky’s 4-4.5 star review

Arthurian historical fantasy
Such easy writing to slip into
Feminist stance

Gawain pulled me into the story so quickly because it was interesting immediately and the writing was so easy to engage with. Gawain himself was a 17 year old brash, son of a Lord in the Lothians. He was desperate to battle and prove the skills he’d been training for. Fast forward to Beltaine, a visit from the Green Man and he found himself on an epic journey.

The cast of characrers in this book were funny and they seemed authentic. Gawain’s comrades were equally lacking in sense when it came to decisions. I enjoyed seeing the home context of King Lot’s kingdom but it really seemed to take a sharper focus when Gawain went on his quest. There was a smattering of romance in this book, which was pitched well. There were some great late twists too.

One of the things I really appreciated about this book was the alternate POV of Mhari, the pictish warlord. I loved reading her character, how she was viewed as a female warrior and how she commanded her small army of men and women. There was a definite feminist tone that felt authentic. The Lothian females weren’t afforded battle training but those characters were conveyed with some power balance in their interactions.

I don’t know what I expected from this book but I didn’t expect to get as swept up as I was and now I find myself completely invested in where this series is going, especially after those final lines of the book.

Thank you to JP Harker for the review copy, this hasn’t affected this unbiased review.

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