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Sword of the Rightful King: A Novel of King Arthur Hardcover – May 1, 2003

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 - 12
  • Lexile Measure: 1010L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (May 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0152025278
  • ISBN-13: 978-0152025274
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,521,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Bestselling author Jane Yolen does not retell the tale of King Arthur in this imaginative novel for young readers so much as re-invent it. There are familiar characters such as Arthur, Gawaine, and Merlin (here called Merlinnus), and elements from the traditional story, including the famed sword in the stone. But The Sword of the Rightful King treats these as ingredients to cook up an entirely new story. In Yolen's version, Arthur is a young king. He wears the crown but sits perhaps a bit uneasily upon the throne. It has been reported to the king that there are some who will betray or even kill him in order to rise to power. To assure the subjects, the magician Merlinnus places a sword in a stone and announces that whosoever pulls it out, will be the rightful ruler of England. The fact that someone else pulls the sword out of the stone first is just one of numerous intriguing twists. Yolen manages to update the legend and make it fresh for a modern younger audience without resorting to gimmickry and incongruous references (no one says "dude", Lancelot does not ride a skateboard). Instead, she recasts the characters as real people: flawed, troubled, and altogether human. And while they still exist in long-ago England, the people we meet and the situations they find themselves in are accessible to readers of any age. (All ages) --John Moe

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 6-9. Yolen takes elements of Arthurian legend and makes them her own in this involving novel. The central image of the sword in the stone comes to prominence not as the way an unknown boy becomes king but as a means devised by Merlinnus the mage to bind the people's allegiance more firmly to the young King Arthur. Besides Arthur and Merlinnus, the narrative closely concerns Sir Gawaine, who is determined to stay loyal to Arthur despite his mother's traitorous plots against the king, and young Gawen, who arrives at court to train as a knight and becomes an assistant to Merlinnus instead. In Yolen's hands, many characters who have been colorful cardboard figures in other books come to life as sympathetic human beings. Even Sir Kay, for all his flaws, is somehow likable as portrayed here, and Arthur's affection for him is understandable. Yet all is not well in Arthur's realm, even at his court: evil is real, magic is dangerous, assassins are abroad, and power is the only language universally understood. The revelation of a secret creates a surprise ending that departs from traditional Arthurian legend, though many will find it a satisfying climax. Combining old and new, adventure and idealism, this will leave many readers hoping for a sequel that is just as well written and intriguingly crafted. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Born and raised in New York City, Jane Yolen now lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts. She attended Smith College and received her master's degree in education from the University of Massachusetts. The distinguished author of more than 170 books, Jane Yolen is a person of many talents. When she is not writing, Yolen composes songs, is a professional storyteller on the stage, and is the busy wife of a university professor, the mother of three grown children, and a grandmother. Active in several organizations, Yolen has been on the Board of Directors of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, was president of the Science Fiction Writers of America from 1986 to 1988, is on the editorial board of several magazines, and was a founding member of the Western New England Storytellers Guild, the Western Massachusetts Illustrators Guild, and the Bay State Writers Guild. For twenty years, she ran a monthly writer's workshop for new children's book authors. In 1980, when Yolen was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree by Our Lady of the Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts, the citation recognized that "throughout her writing career she has remained true to her primary source of inspiration--folk culture." Folklore is the "perfect second skin," writes Yolen. "From under its hide, we can see all the shimmering, shadowy uncertainties of the world." Folklore, she believes, is the universal human language, a language that children instinctively feel in their hearts. All of Yolen's stories and poems are somehow rooted in her sense of family and self. The Emperor and the Kite, which was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1983 for its intricate papercut illustrations by Ed Young, was based on Yolen's relationship with her late father, who was an international kite-flying champion. Owl Moon, winner of the 1988 Caldecott Medal for John Schoenherr's exquisite watercolors, was inspired by her husband's interest in birding. Yolen's graceful rhythms and outrageous rhymes have been gathered in numerous collections. She has earned many awards over the years: the Regina Medal, the Kerlan Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Society of Children's Book Writers Award, the Mythopoetic Society's Aslan Award, the Christopher Medal, the Boy's Club Jr. Book Award, the Garden State Children's Book Award, the Daedalus Award, a number of Parents' Choice Magazine Awards, and many more. Her books and stories have been translated into Japanese, French, Spanish, Chinese, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Afrikaans, !Xhosa, Portuguese, and Braille. With a versatility that has led her to be called "America's Hans Christian Andersen," Yolen, the child of two writers, is a gifted and natural storyteller. Perhaps the best explanation for her outstanding accomplishments comes from Jane Yolen herself: "I don't care whether the story is real or fantastical. I tell the story that needs to be told."

Customer Reviews

Jane Yolen did a great job with a King Arthur story.
I loved what it was, but it then changed the entire personality of a certain character, which didn't make much sense to me.
Expect to be surprised by quite a few aspects of this story, and to enjoy the humor and poignancy.
E. A Solinas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Jane Yolen is one of those authors who can effortlessly give a new spin to an old story. Here she makes a rather worn area of fantasy seem new, in "Sword of the Rightful King." There's magic, treachery, a bit of romance and plenty of suspense and humor.
Arthur has been king of all Britain for four years now, but not everyone is willing to accept him as their king. The most dangerous among these is the North Witch, Arthur's half-sister Morgause, whose four elder sons are heading to Arthur's court -- and there is an assassin among them. (Gawain seems very loyal but might be bewitched by his mother; his brother Agravaine is almost insanely aggressive, and the twins are ditzy). What's more, the old mage Merlinnus encounters a young boy in the forest who has a mysterious past and a grudge against Gawain.
So Merlin concocts a means of solidifying Arthur's kingship -- a sword embedded in a stone, that can only be pulled by the true king. Arthur pulls it from the stone, and everyone accepts him as king. Simple, right? Except that the North Witch is still spinning her spells, and she plans to get her hands on the sword first -- no matter what.
Though there's no real connection between the two books, I felt like I was reading a sequel to Yolen's previous novel "Dragon's Boy." Perhaps it was the portrayal of Merlin and Arthur -- they have a sort of father-son bond, and even though Arthur often doesn't listen to Merlin they obviously care about each other. And Merlin, although a bit decayed physically, is still the sharpest knife in the drawer. Though this book has magic (including a homicidal dagger) and the other didn't, it felt very much like a follow-up.
Yolen's writing is quick and fast-moving, with excellent dialogue and some very good descriptions of things like the eerie May Queens.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kimberly Gelderman on December 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is the story of a newly crowned Arthur. As usual, too many are unsure of him and others desire the crown for themselves. Merlinnus plays a major role in plotting Arthur's success with the "sword in the stone." However, there are a few twists along the way. Did someone else pull the sword out of the stone before Arthur? Has the sword been enscorelled by Morgause? Who is the newcomer to Arthur's kingdom? Is he really what he seems? These questions and more are entertainingly answered with many surprises.
I bought this book knowing it was for young adults, which I definitely am not, hoping for an alternative and entertaining story that was fresh. I didn't think it could be done (I've read hundreds of Arthurian Literature books) and certainly didn't expect the surprise this book turned out to be! Additionally, I believe some of the words in this novel would be difficult for many adults, let alone young adults to understand, so keep that dictionary handy as you are reading. Buy this book and read it! It is extraordinary!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Koppel on July 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
Most people seem to have some familiarity with the legend of King Arthur but it won't help them with this completely fresh version of the story.
Arthur is the High King of all Britain but there are some lords who do not recognize him as such. Among these is Pendragon's widow Morgause. She wants one of her boys to be on the throne, possibly her eldest Gawaine. Although Arthur is a fair and just king it will take more to win over some. Merlinnus (Merlin) comes up with an idea to cement Arthur in his position. An idea involving a stone and a sword.
In Cadbury (Camelot) much is going on. Gawain and his brothers are arriving, Gawen has arrived and become Merlinnus's helper, word has it that Morgause is sending an assassin, and a shepherd finds a mysterious stone with a sword sticking out of it.
You may have thought you knew the story but this version is fresh and full of surprises. A wonderful fantasy full of magic and intrigue.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
Midnight by the bell. The churchyard was deserted in darkness. By the front door, which was but a black rectangle in a blacker mass, a large square was marked off on the ground. In the square's center stood an enormous stone, which- if the moon had been shining-would have reminded any onlooker of a sleeping bear. A dead bear obviously. For in the bear's back was thrust a great sword, its haft pointing slantwise toward the night sky. That is how the book Sword of the Rightful King pulls you in, bringing you laughter, surprise, and question as to what will happen next.

Jane Yolen did a wonderful job of creating a different story of the Sword in the Stone. In this story, Arthur is a kind smart young night who looks to his mage Merlinnus, with things he can't understand. Like how some people in Britain don't believe he should be king. Some people like his half sister Morgause, queen of the Orkneys. The four older of her five sons were sent by their mother to go to King Arthur's castle. Among them she sent a spy, so she could have one of her sons as King. Merlinnus made a sword in a stone saying who ever pulled the sword from the sword would be king. Morgause wanted to be sure that one of her sons pulled the sword, but would he spells be able to outmatch Merlinnus'? The big day came when Arthur was to pull the sword from the stone, but someone already had.

I liked this book because of the surprises in every chapter and the detail making it seem as if you were there. It was a little slow moving, and complicated, like how the names were alike, but everything unfolded in the end. I didn't like how she made it seem like the whole book would be about Gawaine the eldest son in the beginning, but ended up being more about Arthur and those around him.
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