The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Although published in one volume as The Three Damosels, these three books can be read separately, although the third volume benefits greatly from an understanding of the earlier events. The books are linked by their common Arthurian theme and, to some extent, by the character of Lady Lynett. Because of her role and the value of following the stories chronologically (although inevitably many of the events take place contemporaneously and overlap), the best reading sequence is The King’s Damosel, The Green Knight, and King Arthur’s Daughter.

In each of these novels, Vera Chapman creates characters of her own making, but in The King’s Damosel she remains closest to Arthurian tradition. This is the story of Lynett, who, in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (1485), is depicted as a shrew of a girl who comes to King Arthur’s court to seek help in rescuing her sister from the Red Knight. No one will help except a kitchen scullion who, it later transpires, is Gareth, the brother of Sir Gawain. Lynett does not know this and feels affronted that no knight will come to her aid. The King’s Damosel reports this story in flashback and begins with Lynett’s marriage to Gaheris, Sir Gareth’s brother. Lynett, though, loves Gareth who, at the same ceremony, is to be wedded to Lynett’s sister Leonie. Unknown to Lynett, Gaheris similarly has no love for her, and he deserts her on her wedding night. This becomes a double insult. She already had been bracing herself to reveal that she was not a virgin, having been raped a few years before by King Bagdemagus. These events make Lynett sour, but Merlin reveals to her her destiny as a messenger, a destiny that becomes significant in the final volume. Arthur duly appoints Lynett as his royal messenger, and her first journey is to King Bagdemagus. So begins her quest for revenge that transmutes itself into the quest for the Holy Grail and an expiation for her sins. As the novel develops, Chapman succeeds in shifting from the mundane to the mystical, as Lynett’s experiences prepare her for the most holy of quests. This transformation is what lifts the...

(The entire section is 888 words.)