The Lioness and Her Knight - Gerald Morris After reading Nikki’s reviews of this author’s stories, I decided to give him a try.
Like his other works, this charming little novel is based on one of the Chretien de Troyes’s Arthurian poems. The young protagonist Luneta is a sixteen-year-old girl from a not very rich but noble family. Chafing under her mundane existence, she feels that her loving parents don’t understand her. Of course, not! Since the times of King Arthur, there haven’t been many sixteen-year-olds thinking their parents understood them.
When Luneta’s mom and dad decide to send her for a visit to her mother’s old friend, Luneta is ecstatic. She is going on adventure! Her two companions during her travels are her cousin Ywain, a young knight dreaming of slaying dragons and gaining glory, and Rhience, a witty, charismatic jester who laughs at everyone, including himself. The three friends plunge into one escapade after another, helping each other and learning together.
A bossy, manipulative kind of girl (all in a good cause), Luneta is immensely practical. She has a generous heart and an untapped well of compassion. Her journey leads her from the modest manor of her family to castles and huts of the surrounding countryside. She encounters friends and foes, heroes and villains, but throughout the story, her willingness to help everyone who needs (or doesn’t need) her help remains unchanged, even to the detriment of her own safety and that of her friends.
Ywain, although at the periphery of the tale, learns the most profound lesson: hero’s glory doesn’t make a man happy. But as it often happens in fairy tales, the jester is the cleverest of them all. He is also the most charming character, and almost all the giggles and chuckles the novel inspires (quite a lot) can be attributed to him.
His is the assurance that anything expressed in Latin must be true.
When one of the characters in the novel uses the expression “very necessary”, Rhience can’t resist the temptation to ridicule:
“What a curious expression!” Rhience said thoughtfully. “I wonder what the opposite of ‘very necessary’ is? Mildly necessary? Somewhat essential?”

Later in the tale, he briefly considers a career change:
“If that’s what comes of doing good, I’ve a mind to start doing evil instead.”
“You?” Ywain asked scornfully.
“That’s right,” Rhience replied, brightening. “In my next career, I’ll be a recreant knight.”
“You’d be terrible at it,” Ywain said bluntly.
Rhience looked affronted. “I don’t see why you have to be insulting. If I tried very, very hard, I could—”
“He’s right, you know,” Luneta said. “You laugh too much.”
“And worst of all, you laugh at yourself,” Ywain added. “I assure you that no self-respecting recreant knight would ever do that.”

At times a bit didactic, the novel was not very absorbing, at least not in the first half, which read more like an introduction than a real story. I had no trouble closing the book, but I always returned to it later. I wanted to know what happened next.
The second part of the novel was much more intense, almost like another story. The action picked up speed, the real danger and the lioness of the title finally appeared, and the plot switched direction as easily as a car.
I suppose I could’ve appreciated this book better if I were inside the author’s target audience, 13 or 14, rather than my much more advanced age, but it was a nice, light diversion regardless, and I enjoyed it. I think this novel is a good introduction to the medieval literature, especially for pre-teens.
I also learned a new word, recreant, a couple olden insults, blitherwit and gapeseed, and a juicy exclamation – Oh, lawks! I must admit, I’m partial to such verbal gems and I collect them.

Footnote: the cover art of the hardcover edition is terrible. Don’t pay attention to it; the story is much better.