The Swan in Summer

Read an extract from The Swan in Summer



See what the characters look like here.

Maps of the settings of The Swan in Summer can be found here

Inspiration behind the writing

The Wolf in Winter ended with the death of the Morholt but that’s only part of Tristan and Iseult’s story. Arguably the core of the legend is their love affair but, in my hands, The Trystan Trilogy is really Corwynal’s story so in The Swan in Summer I decided to introduce yet another love story – that between Corwynal and Brangianne, who traditionally is Iseult’s companion or servant but who, in The Swan in Summer, is Yseult’s aunt and a healer. I wanted to contrast the young love between Trystan and Yseult with the older, more nuanced relationship between Corwynal and Brangianne. So this part of The Trilogy is not only Corwynal’s story but Brangianne’s. She’s known as the Dark Swan of Dalriada and so is the Swan of the title.

A large part of Swan is set in the Irish Kingdom of Dalriada, so this gave me the opportunity to explore another late iron age culture. I was also able to develop the characters who appeared in Wolf and introduce some new ones. One element I wanted to include was Tristan’s fight with the Dragon. The story goes that when he returns to Ireland to collect the woman his uncle Mark is to marry he learns that a fire-breathing Dragon is terrorising the country. So, instead of going to the court to collect the Princess, Tristan goes to fight the Dragon and kills it, then, hurt by the Dragon’s fiery breath, collapses. Iseult finds him and takes the unconscious Tristan back to her castle where she heals him yet again. There she finds his sword and sees that a notch in the blade matches the sliver of metal that was found in the Morholt’s skull. She therefore realises Tristan is the man who killed the Morholt.

Again, as in Wolf, I’ve mixed up some of the elements and rationalised them. A real Dragon had no place in my novel, so I made the Dragon the title of a man from Corwynal’s mysterious past. I also turned around the notched sword element so the sliver of metal isn’t in the Morholt’s head but in Trystan’s side and it comes not from Trystan’s sword but the Morholt’s.

The Swan in Summer was begun not long after I’d finished the first draft of The Wolf in Winter and, after a few false starts, I completed it a few years later. By the time I’d finished it, I knew a great deal more about my main characters. But not all. I still hadn’t written what would end up being the final section of The Trilogy – The Serpent in Spring. I didn’t know what happened at the end, or why, or who was involved. The writing of The Swan in Summer turned out to be nothing more than a step on the journey, one I still had to complete. But I was beginning to see my way …

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