Grail of Stars (2014), the fourth and final book in Katherine Roberts‘s PENDRAGON LEGACY, sees the daughter of King Arthur Pendragon go in search of the last of the Four Lights that can restore her father to life and banish her evil cousin Mordred once and for all: the Grail of Stars.
Princess Rhianna is joined by her best friend Elphin from the Island of Avalon, the newly knighted Sir Cai who wields the Lance of Truth, and Arianrhod, the former maidservant of Morgan le Fay, who still bears the marks of her cruelty. Rhianna herself is in possession of her father’s sword Excalibur, the Sword of Light, as well as the Crown of Dreams, which holds all the wisdom of the land’s former rulers. Now she must use these gifts to seek out the Grail, even as rumours grow that her cousin Mordred has returned from the dead through the use of dark magic, and is currently terrorising the monastery on the Lonely Tor.
So a difficult choice awaits Rhianna: whether to confront Mordred or continue the search for the Grail, currently in the keeping of the mysterious Lady of the Lake. It’s not the first time she’s had to make a difficult decision, and it won’t be the last …
There are plenty of things I enjoyed about the PENDRAGON LEGACY — the premise of the story, the quick pacing, the unique twists on Arthurian legend — but having finished the books in their entirety I can say their biggest weakness is Rhianna herself, who more often than not comes across as an obnoxious brat. For the first two books I gave the characterization the benefit of the doubt, assuming that she would learn and grow across the course of her adventures, but by the end of the tale she still hasn’t learned any patience, humility or basic courtesy.
Whenever someone — her friends, her mother, the knights — make a perfectly reasonable request for caution, she starts accusing them of treason or something equally terrible, and is constantly described as reaching for her sword if the slightest little thing doesn’t go her way. For example, at one point Queen Guinevere tells Rhianna it’s dangerous for her to go on a quest that so many other knights have perished upon; plus, their main priority should be investigating the strange murder of one of the kingdom’s squires.
In the face of such overwhelming logic and well-meant advice, Rhianna leaps straight to this remark: “I think you want me to fail so you can live happily ever after at Camelot with Sir Lancelot!” Guinevere gives her a well-deserved slap for this, but does Rhianna feel remorse or regret? Nope, she’s just angry that it happened in front of the knights.
Later Guinevere apologises, saying: “I think we were all upset by that poor boy who drowned.” Rhianna’s thoughts on the matter? “I’ve got more important things to do than find out how Gareth drowned.”
Ugh. She’s vile. Needless to say, her attitude does not befit a ruler or leader of men. How did King Arthur manage to spawn this brat?
It so happens that I read PENDRAGON LEGACY at the same time was I re-reading Tamora Pierce‘s SONG OF THE LIONESS quartet, which coincidentally also happens to feature a short-tempered redheaded warrior maiden as its main character. But whereas Rhianna is demanding and self-absorbed, Alanna is a fantastic example of a protagonist who learns and grows and gains understanding of herself and the world over time.
I hate to leave things on a sour note, and there’s plenty about this four-part story to recommend it. On the whole, it’s an entertaining read for younger readers … if you can stomach the heroine.