The final thrilling chapter in the Tristan and Isolde trilogy
Isolde, heir to the throne of the queens, is now a sovereign in her own right. With the glories of the throne comes the responsibility of a queen, and Isolde knows she must return to her beloved Western Isle. She can no longer tolerate her marriage to King Mark of Cornwall, a marriage she has accepted for years to save her country from the threat of war—and to be near her only love, Mark’s nephew, Tristan of Lyonesse. And so she leaves Cornwall and comes home to Ireland, where her lords face a growing threat from the warlike Picti, who live in the barren highlands to the north of England. The Picti have a bold new king, Darath, who is determined to take the riches of Ireland for his own people, whether by war or by marriage with Isolde.
Isolde gathers her armies to confront the Picti while facing a violent conflict with King Mark, who vows he will not let a prize like Isolde, and Ireland, slip from his grasp. Isolde is last in a line of famous warrior queens who have guarded Ireland from time before memory, and now she—and her knight, Tristan—must play out their fate and face her enemies in a final battle, a war that could spell ruin for them both.
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Isolde’s day has come. In Ireland her mother, the Queen, lies dying. The throne of the Emerald Isle, one of the last strongholds of the Goddess, awaits her. But while Ireland is her destiny, Isolde is already Queen of Cornwall, trapped in a loveless marriage to the mean-spirited King Mark. Her true love is his nephew, Tristan of Lyonesse, who has never married, remaining faithful to Isolde.
Across the sea in France, a young princess who shares Isolde’s name enters the story. King Hoel named his daughter in honor of Isolde of Ireland, but young Isolde of France has always been determined to outdo Queen Isolde. She, too, is a physician and is called “Blanche Mains,” for her white hands and healing touch. Blanche is of an age to be married, and she has chosen her husband—Tristan of Lyonesse. Her father objects, but fate favors Blanche. King Mark has become suspicious of his wife and nephew, and when Tristan is wounded in battle, he sees a chance to separate them for good.
Mark sends Tristan to France to be healed by Blanche, who makes the most of the opportunity. Tristan’s letters to Isolde are intercepted, and he is told that she has given him up. Near death from his wounds, Tristan sends one last desperate letter to Isolde by a trusted servant. He is dying, he tells her, and asks for one final sign of their love. If she can forgive him for marrying another, she must come to France in a ship set with white sails. If the ship’s sails are black, he will know that she no longer loves him. Isolde immediately leaves for France, but when Blanche sees the white sails from the castle window, she pulls the curtains and tells Tristan that they are black. To her horror, he turns his face to the wall and dies.
There ends the traditional medieval story of Tristan and Isolde—with betrayal, death, and grief. But the original Irish legend ends differently, and so does this book, with magic and drama as only Rosalind Miles can write it.
In the golden time of Arthur and Guenevere, the Island of the West shines like an emerald in the sea—one of the last strongholds of Goddess-worship and Mother-right. Isolde is the only daughter and heiress of Ireland’s great ruling queen, a lady as passionate in battle as she is in love. La Belle Isolde, like her mother, is famed for her beauty, but she is a healer instead of a warrior, “of all surgeons, the best among the isles.” A natural peacemaker, Isolde is struggling to save Ireland from a war waged by her dangerously reckless mother. The Queen is influenced by her lover, Sir Marhaus, who urges her to invade neighboring Cornwall and claim it for her own, a foolhardy move Isolde is determined to prevent. But she is unable to stop them. King Mark of Cornwall sends forth his own champion to do battle with the Irish—Sir Tristan of Lyonesse—a young, untested knight with a mysterious past. A member of the Round Table, Tristan has returned to the land of his birth after many years in exile, only to face Ireland’s fiercest champion in combat. When he lies victorious but near death on the field of battle, Tristan knows that his only hope of survival lies to the West. He must be taken to Ireland to be healed, but he must go in disguise—for if the Queen finds out who killed her beloved, he will follow Marhaus into the spirit world. His men smuggle him into the Queen’s fort at Dubh Lein, and beg the princess to save him.
From this first meeting of star-crossed lovers, an epic story unfolds. Isolde’s skill and beauty impress Tristan’s uncle, King Mark of Cornwall, and—knowing nothing of her love for Tristan—he decides to make her his queen, a match her mother encourages as a way to bind their lands under one rule. Tristan and Isolde find themselves caught in the crosscurrents of fate, as Isolde is forced to marry a man she does not love. Taking pity on her daughter, the Queen gives her an elixir that will create in her a passion for King Mark and ensure that their love will last until death. But on the voyage to Ireland, Tristan and Isolde drink the love potion by accident, sealing their already perilous love forever.
So begins the first book of the Tristan and Isolde trilogy, another stunning example of the storyteller’s craft from Rosalind Miles, author of the beloved and bestselling Guenevere trilogy.