The Cleaving

by: Juliet E. McKenna


Four women, four destinies – the future of King Arthur’s court…

File Under: Fantasy [ Once and Future | A Woman’s Work | Out of the Shadows | Cutting Edge ]



The Cleaving is a fresh Arthurian retelling that follows the tangled stories of four women: Nimue, Ygraine, Morgana, and Guinevere. These women fight to control their own destinies amid the wars and rivalries that will determine the destiny of Britain.  The legendary epics of King Arthur and Camelot don’t tell the whole story. Chroniclers say Arthur’s mother Ygraine married the man that killed her husband. They say that Arthur’s half-sister Morgana turned to dark magic to defy him and Merlin. They say that the enchantress Nimue challenged Merlin and used her magic to outwit him. And that Arthur’s marriage to Guinevere ended in adultery, rebellion and bloodshed. So why did these women chose such dangerous paths? As warfare and rivalries constantly challenge the king, Arthur and Merlin believe these women are destined to serve Camelot by doing as they are told. But men forget that women talk. Ygraine, Nimue, Morgana and Guinevere become friends and allies while the decisions that shape their lives are taken out of their hands. This is their untold story. Now these women have a voice. Juliet E McKenna is an expert on medieval history and warfare. She brings this expertise as well as her skills as a fantasy writer to this epic standalone novel.
Release Date



Ebook, Paperback

Cover Art

Chris Panatier

Paperback ISBN




Juliet E. McKenna is the author of 15 epic fantasy novels set in the world of Einarinn,  as well as several novellas and countless short stories ranging from SF to steampunk and alternate history. Her contemporary fantasy Green Man novels, published by indie Wizard’s Tower Press, have sold over 28,000 copies since 2018. She has been a judge for the World Fantasy Awards, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the James White Award and the Aeon Award, and has, herself, been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award and the BSFA Award for Best Novel. In 2015 she was awarded the Karl Edward Wagner Award for special achievement by the British Fantasy Society.  She is a regular at science fiction conventions, and is a 3rd Dan Aikido black belt.

Photo credit: Lou Abercrombie Photography

“With this impressive fantasy, McKenna brings a fresh, female perspective to the story of King Arthur while retaining all the magic and grandeur of the original tale… Fans of Arthurian legend and female-centric retellings like Circe and Ariadne will find much to enjoy.”
– Publishers Weekly

“The Cleaving is an inspired reimagining of Arthurian myth told from the perspective of Nimue. Through her eyes we see how these well-known stories play out, giving a voice to the women whose stories we’ve only seen through the eyes of men. McKenna deftly weaves a mythological retelling that is grounded in historical reality and is perfect for fans of Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls and Anya Seton’s Katherine.”
– Shauna Lawless, author of The Children of Gods and Fighting Men

“McKenna’s writing immediately makes readers identify with the characters, and the strength they draw together fights against the weight of helplessness.”
– Booklist




“If you’re not reading Juliet McKenna you should be”
– Kate Elliott

“The thinking fantasy reader’s writer”
– Charles Stross

“Her many characters are thoroughly engaging and her plots tight”
– Joanne Harris

“McKenna creates real tension”
– Time Out

“Written with verve and style”
– SFX Magazine

“Magically convincing and convincingly magical”
– Dan Abnett

“If your appetite is for fantasy in the epic tradition, with compelling narratives, authentic combat and characters you care about, Juliet E McKenna is definitely the author for you” Stan Nicholls
“Everything just sings in these books.”
– Charles de Lint in F&SF