Sisters of Sword and Shadow – Laura Bates

On the inspiration behind Sisters of Sword and Shadow

There’s nothing quite like Arthurian adventure. Like so many other kids, I grew up devouring and adoring the many retellings of the story of the sword in the stone, the chronicles of Arthur’s relationship with Merlin, the exploits and quests of the knights of the round table. The movies A Knight’s Tale and King Arthur were big hits when I was a teenager, then I went to university where I studied Le Morte D’Arthur as part of my English literature degree.

I loved the stories, immersed myself in the romance and excitement of Arthur’s world, and yet… something was always missing. Compared to the vast catalogue of male characters, from the heroic yet tragic Arthur and tortured Lancelot to pure Galahad and gallant Gawain, the women were disappointingly one-dimensional. Polarised between the desirable Guinevere, notable for her relationships to men, the pining Elaine and the scheming Morgan La Faye, the women’s characters seemed flat and existed almost exclusively to further men’s storylines.

For years, I dreamed of what it might be like if a diverse group of women, of different ages and backgrounds, flawed and heroic and brave and real, could inhabit the same world of excitement, adventure and quests. I wanted to revisit Arthur’s kingdom through a feminist lens, asking questions about courage and strength, chivalry and power, and what it would be like for women to exist in that world.

There is, after all, so little historical documentation that survives from that period, which allows us a significant amount of poetic license! After stumbling across a reference in a historical text about a rowdy group of women who interrupted jousting tournament and insisted on taking part, I started to ask myself a tantalising question. What if a circle of female knights did exist, and the only reason we never heard about them was because every man they defeated was too embarrassed ever to tell the story? And so, Sisters of Sword and Shadow was born.

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