cover image Witch of the North

Witch of the North

Courtway Jones. Atria Books, $21 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-671-73405-3

This tale of King Arthur's half-sister, Morgan, is less a sequel to Jones's In the Shadow of the Oak King than a parallel account of early Arthurian times and the seeds of the Round Table's destruction. Morgan, daughter of Igraine the Gold and Gorlais, Duke of Cornwall, is sent away after her beloved father is killed by Uther Pendragon's men. Schooled in the mysteries of the Great Mother by the Lady of the Lake and later taking her place among her mother's people, the matriarchal Gaels, Morgan learns to fight, heal, rule and judge. After being raped by Briton king Lot, she marries Pictish King Urien and lovingly raises his sons from a previous marriage. She leaves that unhappy union to become a member of her younger half-brother's court, where the damage that will be wrought by Arthur's seneschal and foster brother, Kay, is already apparent. The death of her favorite stepson drives Morgan to set up her own small kingdom, a Gaelic matriarchy, in the north. Projecting the voice and viewpoint of a remarkable woman whose attempts to heal in a world of conflict draw only suspicion and fear, cultural anthropologist Jones gives the familiar saga a deep, rich hue. (Dec.)