Wow. I can't believe all the haters in the review section here.
After some contemplation, I'm guessing that it's because the book was repackaged for the newer edition with a wholly inappropriate cover. The original ROC edition has a pretty lovely, Pre-Raphaelite-inspired cover by Don Maitz. The new edition has this cheesy, pink-glittery cover that makes it look like a cheap romance for 13-year-old girls.
You can't judge a book by its cover, but you can surely make certain that the wrong people read a book by its cover.
This book is not aimed at young teens. It is also NOT: confusing, hard-to-follow, full of 'flowery' or 'verbose' language, OR for people who have no clue about the Arthurian mythos.
Yes, the book's author absolutely expects that the reader is familiar with Arthurian legends, and that you will be able to recognize the elements of classic characters and events in hers. I don't think that's too much of a demand, considering the scores and scores of novels that have been written in this genre, and how much the Arthurian legends are part of the very underpinnings of Western society.
The language of the story is very simple and straightforward. There are occasional poems, often presented as lyrics to the ballads that Merlin sings. But the bulk of the novel is basic, uncomplicated prose, with a nod to the styles of fairy tales and legends. At times, it reminded me of Patricia McKillip. I do like McKillip better - but she's one of my most favorite authors.
The real success here is how Crompton brilliantly portrays events from the point of view of the 'Fey.' She makes the Fey real - portrays them as a believable people, with a convincing, well-rounded, but very, very foreign culture. And she does this without sacrificing their magic. (Other books I've read in the genre have made them just another tribe, feared, hated, and misunderstood - but Crompton does all this, AND keeps them truly fey.) Writing from the perspective of someone from a culture with a very different moral standard to the one we're used to can be challenging - but I feel that this book did it wonderfully. I felt that I came to understand Niviene. Sometimes her attitude shocked me, sometimes I agreed with her. But more importantly, the portrayal of her character led me to think of things from a perspective not my own - which is one of the main raisons d'être of fiction in general.
I'd recommend this book highly to anyone interested in quality mythic fiction, Arthurian legend and faerie lore. It's not a perfect book, but it's a beautiful, worthwhile one.