Full of Books

Isolde, Queen of the Western Isle by Rosalind Miles Review

Title: Isolde, Queen of the Western Isle

Author: Rosalind Miles

First published July 9, 2002

360 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9781400047864 (ISBN10: 1400047862)

Rating: 3.64


In the enchanting era of King Arthur and Queen Guenevere, the Western Isle stands as a beacon of hope for those who still worship the Goddess and uphold the traditions of Mother-right. Isolde, the daughter of Ireland’s ruling queen, is a formidable figure on the battlefield and a gifted healer.

She is everything her mother isn’t – a peacemaker, and she struggles to prevent her mother from waging a war against the neighboring Cornwall. But her efforts are in vain when her mother invades Cornwall, urged on by her lover, Sir Marhaus.

King Mark of Cornwall sends Tristan of Lyonesse, a young and untested knight, to fight against the Irish. Tristan emerges as the victor but is left wounded and close to death.

His only chance of survival is to be taken to Ireland to be healed. Upon reaching the Western Isle, Tristan and Isolde fall deeply in love, but their love is forbidden.

Isolde is forced to marry King Mark, who is unaware of her love for Tristan, and the Queen gives her daughter an elixir that will ensure her love for King Mark. However, the love potion is mistakenly taken by Tristan and Isolde, binding them together in an unbreakable love that threatens to tear apart their world.

This epic tale of love and fate is the first book in a trilogy from Rosalind Miles, the acclaimed author of the bestselling trilogy.

About the Author

Rosalind Miles, a British author, currently resides in both Los Angeles and Kent, England. She is an accomplished writer of both fiction and non-fiction.

Miles contracted polio as a child, which required months of treatment. Her admission to a junior women’s college provided the opportunity to learn Latin and Greek, and develop a lifelong passion for Shakespeare.

At the age of seventeen, Miles was promoted to St. Hilda’s College, Oxford where she pursued English literature, Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, Latin, and French, earning five degrees, including a Ph.D. from the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham.

Miles’ passion for jurisprudence led her to serve as a lay magistrate in the English criminal and family courts, and eventually as a judge in a superior court in Coventry. She is a frequent commentator on the BBC, Canadian Radio, and other media outlets.

Editoral Review

Rosalind Miles’ Isolde, Queen of the Western Isle, published in 2002, is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of Isolde, a legendary queen from medieval Ireland who is best known for her tragic love affair with Tristan, a knight from Cornwall. Miles, an English author and feminist, is known for her strong female characters and feminist perspectives in her works, and Isolde is no exception.

Set in the 5th century, Isolde paints a vivid picture of medieval Ireland, with its political turmoil, religious conflicts, and gender inequalities. The story unfolds around Isolde, a princess who is forced into a political marriage with King Mark of Cornwall, even though her heart belongs to Tristan.

The conflict between duty and desire, loyalty and love, power and submission, forms the core of the novel, as Isolde navigates her way through the treacherous waters of royal politics, while struggling to remain true to her own identity and desires. Miles’ writing style is lyrical and sensual, evocative of the Irish landscape and culture.

She weaves together threads of myth, legend, and history, to create a tapestry of characters that are both human and mythic. Isolde is portrayed as a strong and independent woman, who defies the patriarchal norms of her time, but also embodies the contradictions and complexities of human nature.

Tristan, too, is not just a stereotypical hero or lover, but a flawed and conflicted character, torn between his loyalty to his king and his love for Isolde. The novel is not without its flaws, however.

The pacing can be slow at times, as Miles lingers on descriptions and details that might not add much to the plot. Some of the characters, especially the supporting ones, can be underdeveloped, and some of the dialogue can be a bit stilted.

The novel also lacks the political intrigue and action that one might expect from a medieval epic, as the focus is more on the personal relationships than on the larger historical context. Despite these limitations, Isolde is a well-crafted and engaging novel, that offers a fresh and feminist retelling of a timeless story.

It would appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction, romance, and mythic tales, as well as those who are interested in exploring issues of gender, power, and identity. It could also be a useful teaching tool, for those who want to introduce students to medieval literature, Irish culture, or feminist perspectives.

Overall, Isolde, Queen of the Western Isle deserves a rating of 4 out of 5 stars, based on its strong characterizations, evocative setting, and feminist themes. While it may not be a perfect novel, it is a book that will stay with readers long after they finish reading it, and prompt them to reconsider their own assumptions and values.