A Barbaric Yawp

the ever expanding McHughniverse

"With its intriguing setting, original plotline, beautiful narrative and outstanding characterization, it is certainly a must-read."
(I <3 Reading)

"Ms. Bonito has woven accepted canon and very interesting twists into a very readable and, at times, surprising, tale of King Arthur."
(Royce Smith, Amazon.com)

ISBN 1-60610-569-8

          Arthur Pendragon's ascension to High King of Britain lays a doting world at his feet, but when the death of his sister, Morgaine, sends him into a downward spiral of destruction, his sons, Mordred and Amr, emerge from the shadows to assume control of his mind, and eventually, his throne.

Camelot Lost delves deeper into the legend of Camelot than ever before, pitting father against son, husband against wife, and brother against sister. The raw qualities of love, war, and the passionate deceptions that inspire them are thoroughly explored through the relationships of the chosen, and for the first time ever, the story of Arthur's lesser-known son, Amr Pendragon, is finally revealed.

Spellbinding in its sensuality and vehemence, Camelot Lost passionately explores a timeless tale and introduces a vivid array of characters and conflicts that are sure to captivate readers and challenge all preconceived notions of the Arthurian Legend.

Book Review: Camelot Lost by Jessica Bonito

by Majanka Verstraete of I <3 Reading

I already read and reviewed one book by Jessica McHugh before, a psychological horror novel called Rabbits in the Garden, and I loved it. After finishing reading that, I immediately asked her if I could read another one of her novels, namely Camelot Lost, because I love Arthurian Legend, and I loved Jessica’s work, so I thought: those two things mixed together? That can’t possibly go wrong. Turns out I was absolutely right. In all honesty, this book was probably even better than I initially expected. Because I thought it was so incredibly good, I had a difficult time writing this review. It’s a lot easier to write reviews about books you don’t like than about books you think are absolutely fabulous. There are only so many words in the English language to say something is amazing. Well, I think Camelot Lost really is amazing. Jessica McHugh isn’t just an extraordinary talented psychological horror author, she’s also pretty brilliant at writing medieval fiction. I, for one, am very impressed.

The writing style is fabulous. I’m intrigued by how authentic the narrator’s voice in, and by how easy it was for me to be completely overwhelmed by this story. The descriptions are beautiful, the dailogue witty and inventive. The story kept me glued to my chair from page one, and left me breathless by the end of it. The plot is fast-paced, action-packed and surprisingly original. Can I make it anymore obvious to all of you that I absolutely, undeniably loved this book?

If you’re a fan of the Arthurian Legend or medieval fiction in general, than you definitely should get yourself a copy of Camelot Lost. With its intriguing setting, original plotline, beautiful narrative and outstanding characterization, it is certainly a must-read.

CLICK HERE for the whole review!

SELECTIONS from Camelot Lost

   The great light of Britain had gone out. With the departure of Rome from England, a dark cloud had swept over the land and extinguished all torches of hope. And with that darkness came the Saxons, welcomed into power by the invitation of the foolish King Vortigern of Kent. Mere mercenaries at first and defenders against the Pict invasion, Hengest and his Saxon companions soon began their own insurgency and claimed the island of Thanet as their own. And with the arrival of new Saxon warlords, Aelle and Cerdic from Germany, the lands surrounding the High Kingdom of Camelot became corrupted and stolen away into shadow. With the rightful King Pendragon dead and his sons too young to fight for their claim, the Saxon hordes continued to multiply in number and strength, and Britain seemed doomed to barbarism.

But in the remains of what hope used to shine bright, a tiny sliver still remained flickering in the ashes. The Island of Avalon had remained untouched by the cruel hands of rebellion, and though Christianity was on the rise, a great number of Britons still followed the ancient religion of the Druids and prayed to their Gods for salvation. Upon the mount of Glastonbury, they stared into the mists that surrounded the Holy Isle or stood in the sacred waters that licked the shores of Britain, and they begged for a savior to once again sit upon the throne of Camelot. Their prayers went unanswered for many years, or so they thought. Little did the devout Britons know that the Gods had heard their pleas and sent Merlyn, the great sorcerer of Avalon, to Britain on their behalf. Having found the young brothers Pendragon, the rightful heirs to the throne, he escorted them from Britain to the Holy Isle. There, and only there, the boys could remain safe from the harrowing war on the world’s shore and train for the time when they could reclaim Camelot. While Vortigern sat upon the throne of England, the young Princes were preparing in sword and sortilege to overthrow his regime and take back the birthright promised to them by the Gods and their royal line.


 

   “I would never betray Britain, and you know that. This is needless paranoia, my Lord.”

   “If it’s so needless, then why is there so much speculation about your sojourns? If you’re simply hunting or simply strolling, why all of the conjecture raging through the Kingdom?” Uther replied.

   “If you would like me to return to the forest for a quick hunt, order me to do so and I will obey. What I will not do is stand here a minute longer and be subject to wild and unwarranted accusations,” Arthur hissed.

   Initially, Uther smiled, but it quickly disappeared when he suddenly lunged forward and slammed Arthur up against the wall.

   “You are hiding something from me, my son, and you have been for quite a while. I will know your secret; tell me or I will run you through,” Uther growled as he unsheathed his blade and laid it across Arthur’s neck.

   “You would kill your own heir?” Arthur grunted.

   “Better that than to be betrayed by him,” Uther replied and pressed the blade harder against his son’s throat.

   He felt a few drops of blood spill from the wound forming on his neck and sighed,

   “May the Gods forgive us both for this day, Father.”

   “For what?”

   “I have not betrayed you, but I have kept secrets from you. For ten years, I’ve taken to the woods everyday, and everyday I’ve returned wiser and more enlightened. I saw glimpses of Avalon therein, all thanks to a sorcerer of the Holy Island.”

   “Merlyn,” Uther growled. “He came to you?”

   “He told me not to tell you, but you must believe that I wanted to.”

   “What else did he tell you?”

   “That when he came to you, he lied,” Arthur replied. “You’re not the savior, my Lord. I am.”

   Uther’s hand began to shake and he dropped his sword. He clamped his hands over his face and from the sounds of heavy breathing and muffled moans, it sounded like the venerable King was crying. Arthur put his hand on his father’s shoulder and squeezed tenderly, but when Uther removed his hands from his face, Arthur saw no compassion within and immediately shrank back.

   “You are the savior? You? This world, then, is surely doomed,” Uther snarled and roared for the guards.

   When they clamored into the room, Uther ripped Caliburn out of Arthur’s scabbard and said sternly,

   “Take my son to the tower. We shall see if he can save the world from up there.”

 

 


 

   “It’s a shame that a woman as beautiful and vibrant as you should have such dissatisfaction in her bed,” Accolon replied. “And as you see something in me, I also see something in you. Your face is a faerie story written in a dead age of love and wisdom. But with each smile of your lips and eyes, that golden age struggles to reemerge and swallow these heartless times whole. Your eyes are clover nearly overwhelmed by the snow of your skin and the dark veil that frames it, but they bloom still amidst the shadowy winter, and it fills my heart with hope.”

   “You sing my praises because you are the Queen’s humble servant?” she asked.

   “I am also the humble servant of Morgaine,” he replied sincerely. “What is it that my Lady wishes of me?”

   “What thoughts have you about your uncle?”

   “Ill ones mostly, but he is a strong soldier and a natural leader.”

   “And who, my Lord, would succeed him if the worst should ever befall him?”

   “Why, Prince Amr, of course.”

   “But surely, Amr couldn’t take the throne at his age. If the throne was empty now, which of Urien’s kin would fill it?”

   “Well, Milady, seeing as Urien has no living siblings or forebears, the crown would pass to his closest, eldest relation: me.”

   “I see,” she said slyly.

   “Milady, what notion tickles you so?”

   “Accolon, have you ever thought of staking a claim to the throne? I doubt the country would care too much if Urien fell out of power.”

   “I think every possible heir has had bloody thoughts about his ascension but few have had the courage to follow it through.”

   “Well, I think we’ve already established that courage is something that you certainly don’t lack.”

   “Even if I could overthrow Urien, what would it matter? Amr would be the true King, and though I sat on the throne, the people would never treat me as their real Lord. Most likely, the country would fall to chaos until Amr was old enough to inherit and reclaim it. He is, after all, Urien’s first born son.”

   “What if he wasn’t?” Morgaine whispered.

   “Milady, are you telling me that Urien is not Amr’s father?”

   “No. I was asking what would happen if he wasn’t? Who, then, is rightful King of Norgales when my husband dies?”

   “I am, my Queen.”

   She giggled girlishly and locked her hand onto the back of his neck. She leaned into him so that her lips grazed his ear when she spoke.

   “When the hunt is over, what will you do? Will you return to the wild?”

   “The hunt brought me, Milady, but you could make me stay.”

 


 

   She wrapped the bed sheets around her and padded serenely to Arthur’s side. Camelot was aglow beneath a full moon. Each tower and squatted structure twinkled from side to nook, but the curtain wall cast ghostly shadows across the Kingdom.

   “It’s so beautiful,” she said as she gazed out onto the world.

   “Most things are when bathed in moonlight. You, for instance.”

   She shyly shrank into the shadows, but Arthur grabbed her wrist and pulled her back into the light.

   “No, don’t move,” he said and backed up to swallow her beauty with his eyes. “You are bathed in the luminescence of the Gods, and it suits you. You were made to be lit by it.”

   “And your wife by the sun, no doubt.”

   “But I’ve always favored the night: the cool tranquil darkness blanketed in silver, the shadows of field mice that grow menacing by the moon and frighten seasoned mares. The day is for waking and work; the night is for frolic, dark corners, and dangerous congress.”

   “And what of the sun?”

   “It warms, for sure, but sometimes it can seem too near, too hot. No, Morgaine, I prefer the moon.”


 

   The sun rose red over the hills of Camlann and painted the field with portentous rivers of blood and fire. The Saxon army stood menacingly on the southern hilltop, dark as demons with the blazing sun as their backdrop, and Arthur, clad in mail of bone and leather was darkest of them all. Their steeds were ebony and bare save for bleached antlers secured to their heads, and though many of the men who rode them were similarly armored, it was clear in their grizzled faces that they believed they had no need of such gear. It was clear that they put more stock in the tooth and nail of their own bodies than that of beasts easily slain and stripped. It was also clear that they were hungry for war, thirsty for blood, and itching for a decent slaughter, and with hollers of their exhilarated anticipation and furious stamps of their horses’ fearsome hooves, the world shuddered for its fate.

   Arthur had spoken true. The whole of his army had been elsewhere eagerly awaiting his call to arms. His dark castle in Camlann had held them all for months, and their agitated manner spoke volumes of how they relished the honor of the outdoors and the opportunity to once again cross the battlefield twice over in victory.

   “One clean sweep and back again,” their eyes said viciously, “to trample to death those left only scathed by our swords.”

   And though their gazes were hard and cruel, the corners of their mouths were curled upwards in giddy blood lust. But scattered among the men and horses were beasts of a different caliber. Wolves of grey and black raised their backs high in warning and bared their yellowed fangs as they growled and lapped up the foam that dripped from their ravenous chops. They were larger than others of their ilk, half the size of a horse and from snout to tail they would’ve surely stood as tall as a man. Their howls were shrill and desperate and sung viciously for want of fresh meat.