Review: Queen of None by Natania Barron

In which a publisher sends an advance review copy of Chapel Hill author Natania Barron’s forthcoming novel to me, but my wife claims it as her own:

Queen of None by Natania Barron (Vernacular Books, December 2020)

When Anna Pendragon was born, Merlin prophesied: “Through all the ages, and in the hearts of men, you will be forgotten.”

Married at twelve, and a mother soon after, Anna – the famed King Arthur’s sister – did not live a young life full of promise, myth, and legend. She bore three strong sons and delivered the kingdom of Orkney to her brother by way of her marriage. She did as she was asked, invisible and useful for her name, her status, her dowry, and her womb.

Twenty years after she left her home, Anna returns to Carelon at Arthur’s bidding, carrying the crown of her now-dead husband, Lot of Orkney. Past her prime and confined to the castle itself, she finds herself yet again a pawn in greater machinations and seemingly helpless to do anything about it. Anna must once again face the demons of her childhood: her sisters Morgen, Elaine, and Margawse; Merlin and his scheming Avillion priests; and Bedevere, the man she once loved. To say nothing of new court visitors, like Lanceloch, or the trouble concerning her own sons.

Carelon, and all of Braetan, is changing, though, and Anna must change along with it. New threats, inside and out, lurk in the shadows, and a strange power begins to awaken in her. As she learns to reconcile her dark gift, and struggles to keep the power to herself, she must bargain her own strength, and family, against her ambition and thirst for revenge.


Review by Kendra Montgomery-Blinn

Like many lovers of Celtic lore, I have encountered and sought out tellings of the the Arthurian legend. From my childhood well-worn VCR copy of Disney’s The Sword in the Stone, to the cumbersome Le Morte d’Arthur, even Sam Neill’s Merlin, Monty Python, and, of course, the music of Camelot. My favorite travel memories are in Cornwall with Sam, chasing the ruins of my ancestors from pagan stones in farm fields to winds at Tintagel Castle.

This is the first time in all of these stories that I have heard the telling shaped to give life to the women of lore, told through them and about them. So much is familiar and so much is startling in Natania’s creative vision. The new connections between the characters and definitions of weapons had me nodding and thinking, “Of course, this makes perfect sense.” In particular, Natania’s marvelous reinvention of the Lady of the Lake and her origin and gifts, but also with many more characters and places in delightful ways I do not wish to spoil for future readers.

I find it fitting that the advance copy was sent to my husband, the founder of Bull Spec, and the rightful reader. Yet, I was the first to pick it up. The first to ignore bedtimes and household chores while I devoured these pages. After all, the book is from a sisterhood that calls to me: tell me more of the women behind the men in my legends. This is what has always been missing from the telling. Thank you, Natania, for this book and your vision. It is a gift.


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