From Publishers Weekly
In this second volume of his historical trilogy (after The Evening of the World
, set in the dying days of the Roman Empire), Massie presents a cheerily erudite deconstruction and retelling of the Arthurian legend. The linear events of the narrative are familiar: as a young boy, Arthur is schooled by Merlin, then claims the throne of England by pulling the sword Excalibur from its stone. Massie's version, however, fashions alternate histories for familiar characters (chronicling, for example, Merlin's wretched childhood and describing the twisted use he makes of his powers) and takes a playful, humorous tone ("Nor was Arthur enamored of mathematics, even though Merlin took great joy in that subject and excelled (as he supposed) in expounding it"). Once crowned king, Arthur is portrayed as a strategist and statesman whose marriage to the Saxon maiden Guinevere is one of convenience; his true love is his half-sister, Morgan le Fay, and he has a fondness for pretty youths (as does Merlin). Similarly, the machinations of the Knights of the Round Table are seen as a series of political maneuvers, particularly when the knights jockey for position as the quest for the Grail begins. Readers looking for the standard heroic take may be disappointed, but those of "a speculative and skeptical turn of mind, which takes nothing on trust or unexamined" will appreciate this bracing chronicle.
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"If you have only a dim recollection of the Arthur legends, this is an opportunity to rediscover their variety. And Massie entertainingly adds his own, deliberately anachronistic, original ingredients." -- SALLEY VICKERS, THE TIMES "The Arthurian legends... always bear a fresh telling, especially from such a well-versed historical novelist as Massie... a cracking story." THE OBSERVER "I hope Massie doesn't stop at a mere trilogy. With entertainment as high-wrought and glittering as this, even a dodecalogy would be too short." DAILY TELEGRAPH "a lively and colourful yarn." SUNDAY TELEGRAPH "A timely examination of the power and pitfalls of myth in political life." SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY "This novel simply adds to my admiration for this absurdly underrated author." GLASGOW HERALD "Well-handled" TLS "It is in the mists of sinister suggestion that Massie's skill truly glitters... you are held by the throat from beginning to end." INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.