Austin Chronicle

Gwendolyn's Sword

A well-researched and swiftly paced historical novel for grown-up girls who dreamed of being knights

There are girls who are traveling home to visit their families this holiday, who find themselves staying in their old rooms, looking at their childhood books, and can't help but thumb through some of their favorites. The horse girls will gaze at worn and well-loved copies of Black Beauty and Misty of Chincoteague. The amateur sleuths will revisit Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy. But the ones who begged to go to the Renaissance faire, who rewrote portions ofEragon and Lord of the Rings so the girls had better parts – the adventure-sword-and-dragon girls – they'll be wistfully revisiting Tamora Pierce's books and remembering how good it felt to be their own knights in shining armor.
Gwendolyn's Sword is Austin author E.A. Haltom's gift to Protector of the Small fans all grown up. A spectacularly well-researched and swiftly paced historical novel (with just the most tantalizing hint of magic) follows the titular Gwendolyn, a 22-year-old woman managing her husband's estate as he fights in the Crusades alongside Richard the Lionhearted. Land grabbing and rebellions foment in the king's absence, thanks to his resentful younger brother, John (known best from his role as villain in the tales of Robin Hood), and when Gwendolyn discovers that she is a distant descendant of the legendary King Arthur and supposedly the heir apparent to his sword Caliburn (better known today as Excalibur), she rises to the occasion and takes up the mantle of hero and political player.
Gwendolyn's Sword can't help but be fun by virtue of its genre alone, but its rich details and understated feminism are what distinguish it. Of course, a great part of writing about historical times is presenting the ugly realities of its ideology, and in 1193, as today, there was plenty of misogyny to go around. But Haltom doesn't allow Gwendolyn (and for that matter, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who appears throughout) to be crushed by it, and in the meantime allows space for fruitful female relationships, frank realism about womanhood (never have I been so surprised and delighted to have menstruation discussed in a book), and the creation of a heroine who deserves as many ballads as Arthur, Richard, or Robin Hood. One can hope for a sequel.
Publishers Weekly

Haltom’s debut novel weaves Arthurian fantasy into the vivid reality of 1193 Cornwall and London. Gwendolyn de Cardinham, whose husband is imprisoned with King Richard, decides to learn sword fighting so that she can defend her estate of Penhallam. The discovery that her husband’s ambitious brother is allied with the rebellious Prince John leads Gwendolyn to a local prior, who claims that she is the descendant of King Arthur and destined to wield the fabled sword Caliburn. With the assistance of her constable, William, sworn to protect her since she was a child, and the onetime mercenary Nigel, Gwendolyn travels to London to pledge her sword to the dowager queen Eleanor, using her position as the supposed heir of Arthur as bait for John’s rebels. The historical aspects are very well done, and Gwendolyn and William sit comfortably alongside well-known royals and schemers. The fantastical elements are more unexpected but do not distract from the strength of the main characters. The ending satisfies while setting up a sequel. (BookLife)

Haltom’s debut novel follows Gwendolyn de Cardinham, who, upon discovering that she may be King Arthur’s fabled heir, finds herself caught in the middle of a clash of crowns.
In defiance of proper ladylike behavior, Gwendolyn not only carries a sword, she knows how to use it. Upon encountering a band of mercenaries loyal to the would-be usurper Prince John, she draws her sword in protection of her estate, Penhallam. While on their way to deliver one of the captured mercenaries to a nearby gaol, Gwendolyn’s taciturn constable William Rufus takes her to see an aged prior, who gravely informs her that she is the descendant of King Arthur and thus the rightful heir to his mythical sword, Caliburn. When Gwendolyn discovers that Prince John, angling for his brother King Richard’s crown, has been hunting for Caliburn, she realizes that she’s uniquely poised to thwart John’s rebellious efforts. Under the command of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the dowager queen, Gwendolyn puts herself in the middle of the brothers’ duel for the crown. The queen’s plan takes Gwendolyn and William on a perilous journey to the castle of Arundel, where Gwendolyn must ultimately confront her own skepticism about her mythical heritage. Haltom creates likable heroes (feisty Gwendolyn and loyal William stand out) and enjoyably detestable villains. The author shows a meticulous concern for historical authenticity, evident in the little details, such as Gwendolyn’s struggle to conceal a sword in a lady’s gown. Though history buffs will undoubtedly appreciate Haltom’s thoroughness, the attention to detail can at times reduce the novel’s pace to an almost agonizing slowness, particularly in the many traveling scenes. Despite these shortcomings, the author’s writing style is smoothly readable throughout, especially in scenes heavy with action and dialogue. As Gwendolyn’s story builds to its tension-filled climax, Haltom draws the storylines together into a cohesive, largely enjoyable whole. The addition of magical elements in the forms of William’s visions and an evil sorcerer add a welcome layer of adventure and intrigue. Plus, Haltom wisely leaves room for a sequel.
Well-written, well-plotted, and mostly well-paced, a feisty addition to the historical fantasy genre.
Reviewed by  for Readers' Favorite

In Gwendolyn's Sword by E.A. Haltom, Gwendolyn might be the lady of the manor, but you wouldn't know it by looking at her. She prefers to wear the garb of her men-at-arms and she brandishes a sword as expertly as the best of them. When she has an audience with King Richard's mother, the famous Eleanor of Aquitaine, she takes the Queen by surprise when it becomes evident that Gwendolyn not only carries a sword, but she knows how to use it and she has done so. 

Gwendolyn's adventure begins on the estate of her absent husband, Robert de Cardinham, who has followed King Richard on the Crusade. Men disguised as pilgrims, but obviously en route to support Prince John in his rebellion against the king, threaten Gwendolyn and her ladies. She takes action and wields the sword, resulting in the demise of two of the so-called pilgrims. The other two escape. Her ability to protect herself is now proven and it is time for the myth and legend to be revealed. Is the legend of King Arthur's sword, Caliburn, true? Will a direct descendant of King Arthur once again rise to wield this famous sword to save the kingdom? The legend and the myth take Gwendolyn and her faithful steward, William, to the Tower of London and the court of Queen Eleanor, and the plot thickens. 

E.A. Haltom takes the reader back in time to the era of King Richard, Queen Eleanor and the troublesome Prince John. It is a time of strife in England, where brothers plot against brothers and no one is safe. The author gives us an historical adventure that interweaves the myths and legends of King Arthur and his powerful sword. This is an outstanding story of myth and legend and pure historical adventure. Well done!

When Gwendolyn’s husband left to fight in the crusades he made her promise to protect their home and all of the people that rely on them for protection. Although she took this promise very seriously, she thought they were far enough away so she wouldn’t have many problems, but she was wrong. After defending herself against mercenaries in the forest she realizes the conflict is finally making its way to her. With more mercenaries on the way, she needs all the help she can get, so when she is told King Arthur’s sword is meant for her she jumps at the opportunity. She quickly makes her way to London with her constable, carrying a secret along with her, a secret that could end up costing lives if anyone finds out. Is the risk worth it? Only she knows…
E.A. Haltom takes one of the most turbulent times in English history and adds her own twist to it.Gwendolyn’s Sword is an amazing story of one woman’s fight to protect her home and the lengths she will go to make sure it happens. This is the kind of book that is hard to put down once you start reading. Haltom’s writing brings Gwendolyn and her world to life. You can see everything with such clarity you feel like you are there with Gwendolyn on her journey. You can also tell she did her research when coming up with the concept for this book. The historical facts are intertwined into the narrative and because of this, it takes the book to the next level. There weren’t too many strong-willed women in those days that fought like men the way Gwendolyn does. Then there’s the King Arthur angle the author added in--what if King Arthur came back as a woman? It just adds more depth to an already great book. Gwendolyn is a strong character that goes against the grain, but she has a softer side too. The constable William Rufus is another example of great character development--head of security, and a hardened soldier that would lay down his life to protect Gwendolyn if necessary, but he doesn’t always take orders blindly. He will butt heads with her when he doesn’t agree. All of the characters are like that--complex and human and you believe them and the things they go through while on this journey. If you are a fan of historical fiction you will certainly enjoy this book. Haltom didn’t sacrifice fact for fiction, but wove them together seamlessly to create a memorable and entertaining story.

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