‘Hearken to Avalon’ offers a new twist on legends

For The Recorder
Last modified: Wednesday, February 03, 2016
*Archive Article*
BOOK REVIEW: “Hearken to Avalon” by Arianna Alexsandra Collins (CreateSpace, 502 pages, $18)

Arianna Collins of Ashfield has a vivid and romantic imagination. She clearly gave it full leash in creating “Hearken to Avalon.”

In her acknowledgment section, Collins calls this novel an “‘Into the Woods’ version of colliding legends.” The main legends involved are those of King Arthur and Robin Hood. Collins reverses the general narrative by choosing as her protagonists characters who are generally viewed as villainous.

The book’s heroine is the enchantress known in the Arthurian tales as Morgan le Fay or Morgaine, here combined with the character of the Lady of the Lake.

The hero is Robin Hood’s rival Guy of Gisbourne, to me, most notably portrayed by Basil Rathbone opposite Errol Flynn in the 1938 film “The Adventures of Robin Hood.” Rathbone’s Guy was a dark but attractive figure.

The Morgaine of “Hearken to Avalon” is the descendant (perhaps reincarnation) of her Arthurian namesake, born in the 12th century to a noble, matriarchal line in Glastonbury. When Morgaine encounters Guy of Gisbourne, the two feel an immediate attraction that quickly turns into true love.

Up to the time of their meeting, Guy has resembled the villain of legend, a henchman to the notorious Sheriff of Nottingham and a persecutor of the popular outlaw Robin Hood. Guy’s relationship with Morgaine shows him that he can follow a different path in life, and he changes into a kinder, braver human being.

Readers know almost from the book’s beginning that the lovers will not be able to stay together forever. The author has fun with their relationship, however, allowing them to be loving and highly sexual as long as she can.

“Hearken to Avalon” is not a perfect book. It’s so long that despite care and editing, Collins couldn’t avoid a few grammatical errors and anachronisms. It also flows a bit awkwardly; major plot points come and go swiftly while relatively static moments of romantic bliss and mysticism last a long time.

And, frankly, Morgaine is a little too perfect a heroine for my taste.

Nevertheless, Collins’s enthusiasm for her subject matter is infectious. Her view of romantic love is appealing. She sees the tender passion as an invitation to all of us to be the best people we can be.

The dark and dastardly Guy’s rapid transformation from villain to hero, from lover of power to lover of charity, is believable because the story roots it in his love for Morgaine — and argues that everyone is capable of redemption.

Arianna Alexsandra Collins will sign copies of “Hearken to Avalon” on Saturday, Feb. 6, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” and “Pulling Taffy.” Visit her website: www.TinkyCooks.com