ladyofastolat: (Misty Glastonbury)
[personal profile] ladyofastolat
Despite the important role that Arthurian legend has played in my life, I haven't actually read all that many Arthurian novels. Does anyone have any recommendations, especially for books that have appeared on the scene after the early 90s, when most of my previous reading took place? (However, feel free to recommend earlier stuff. I've definitely missed many must-reads. I'm currently 50 pages into my first ever reading of Sword at Sunset, for example - a book I really should have read decades ago. I'm not sure why I didn't, given that I read The Lantern Bearers several times. Anyway...)

I'm open to recommendations for pretty much anything with an Arthurian element, from Arthur the Romano-British warlord to Arthur the high king of an medieval romantic castle; from modern-set fantasies that draw on Arthurian legends (like The Dark is Rising), to the Matter of Britain transposed to space; from retellings of the well-known stories, to stories about original characters who live on the fringes of Arthur's world, observing from the outside. (I always love outsider viewpoints.)

The only things I'm not that keen on are:
- Macho military battle stories, with endless battles waged by paper-thin characters. A few battles are fine, but I want emotions and characters, too.
- Books full of New Age mysticism, although some magic is fine.

I'm also dubious about books that try to convince us that Mordred was just misunderstood. I read one once, and it was okay. I could grudgingly accept it for the duration of the book, but that was all. Having recently had my heart broken all over again by Gillian Bradshaw, I am not currently receptive to this idea.

Date: 2016-07-14 06:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
When I was little, I loved this BBC series:

Amazingly I found the novelisation for 20p in a charity shop's bargain basement bucket. It's very good, but aimed at a young audience. You'd get through it in one sitting in the time between you getting up and everyone else getting up for Butteller.

Date: 2016-07-14 06:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There's a fiction line associated with the Pendragon RPG. I've heard good things about them, albeit from roleplayers*.

We don't have any in stock at The Shop on the Borderlands, but if you did get some and wanted to get rid of them afterwards, we could probably buy them off you. Pendragon is a very collectible RPG.

* Not always the most discerning readers, speaking from personal experience...

Date: 2016-07-14 07:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
They look a bit pricey and hard to obtain, so I doubt I'll end up getting any, since there are so many other easier-to-obtain options around, but if I do, I'll try to remember to pass them on.

Date: 2016-07-14 06:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My favorite Arthurian novel is Half Magic by Edward Eager. Or at least the Arthurian chapter. (The rest of the book is good too.)

Date: 2016-07-14 07:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I read that at university - I spent the best part of a term researching an extended essay on King Arthur in children's books - but had totally forgotten it. Thanks for reminding me! It was a fun read.

Date: 2016-07-14 06:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

I am not well-read in Arthurian literature, but this link has plenty of ideas.

Date: 2016-07-14 07:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks! The trouble is, there are just so many of them around, that it's hard to know where to start, and hard to know which are the good ones (or, rather, ones that are likely to be to my taste) and which ones I probably won't like.

Notice that I'm averting my eyes decisively from the mention of TV T***s, and pretending that such a thing does not exist. I am certainly not entertaining the possibility of clicking on the link... and then another link... and then another link, oh no.

Date: 2016-07-14 07:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I quite understand ... on both counts ...

Date: 2016-07-14 07:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

And likewise. (Warning: TV tropes).

Date: 2016-07-14 07:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I like Idylls of the Queen by Phyllis Ann Karr which is kind of a detective story set in Malory's Morte d'Arthur.

I also recently enjoyed The Pendragon Protocol ( by Phillip Purser-Hallard enough to have put the sequel on my Amazon wish list. It's a kind of... umm... what if the legends created archetypes which gave people magical powers but kind of forced them to replay the legends kind of modern retelling. It also has proof-reading errors if that is a problem...

Date: 2016-07-14 07:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Idylls of the Queen sounds very promising - and available on Kindle, too. I'm a bit less sure about the other one, but I certainly won't rule it out. Thanks!

Date: 2016-07-15 04:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Idylls of the Queen is amazing, I knew there was something vital that I'd forgotten! It's all about Cai and there's not enough about him! Really recommended! *nods*

Date: 2016-07-15 05:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think this will almost certainly be my next book, after I finish the current one. And I've finally remembered the borrowed Here Lies Arthur, too, so I'll be reading that one soon, too.

Date: 2016-07-14 07:10 pm (UTC)
ext_189645: (Logres)
From: [identity profile]
#1 SAS finally! *cheers*

#2 You didn't read it at university because you were adamant that you MUST read the unabridged version, and that was insanely hard to get hold of in the 80's-90's. I have since read the full version (having grown up with the abridged one). I still think the abridged edition has a lot going for it: OK, there are a couple of very minor bowdlerisations, but it's also quite a lot shorter, and the length of unabridged SAS is possibly a little too much. Will be interested to hear what you think of it.

You might like Jo Walton's thinly-disguised fantasy series, which starts with 'the King's Peace'. Arthur is called Urdo, but it's definitely him.

Date: 2016-07-14 07:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Really? I have absolutely no memory of this, just as I have no memory of conversations in Winchester about Round Tables. It's just as well I've had an LJ to keep memories alive since 2005, because I clearly can't keep hold of them by myself.

The edition I'm reading is from the library stack - a 1978 Hodder & Stoughton hardback, 480 pages. It doesn't say anything about it being abridged, but now I'm struck with doubt.

I'll definitely put the Jo Walton books on my To Read list. Her Just City books are still probably my favourite books of 2016.

Date: 2016-07-14 07:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wikipedia tells me that the first edition had 492 pages. Layouts of different editions can vary, of course, but 480 pages doesn't sound like it would be *very* abridged ...

Date: 2016-07-14 08:14 pm (UTC)
ext_189645: (Logres)
From: [identity profile]
My unabridged copy is 495 pages, BUT my abridged copy (smaller print) is 521.

I cannot explain this.

Date: 2016-07-14 08:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't know my Arthurian literature, but I do know my numbers, and I can't explain this either.

Date: 2016-07-14 08:23 pm (UTC)
ext_189645: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Weirdly, the 521 pages one is a much thinner book. I can only conclude that the actual sheets of paper... must be fatter...?

Date: 2016-07-14 08:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This can happen. The Clowes printings of the first edition Silmarillion* are fatter than the Billings printings, because they are on fatter paper.

*You just knew I'd mention this sooner or later ...

Date: 2016-07-14 08:09 pm (UTC)
ext_189645: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
I remember it chiefly as a series of conversations that went:

1) me : You should read SAS!!!!!!!!

2) you (shuffling away in alarm) : but abridgement!

3) me (waving book) : I don't think THIS one is abridged

4) you (looking oddly at the wild-eyed maniac, leafs to tiny print on page 493): YES IT IS. I CANNOT.

and return to 1 and repeat every time I managed to find another copy lurking somewhere. :-D

Date: 2016-07-15 11:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have no memory at all of this. Clearly the experience of repeatedly rejecting wild-eyed maniacs brandishing copies of Sword at Sunset was less traumatic than the experience of being constantly thwarted in your attempts to proselytise. :-)

I have absolutely no idea if I'm reading an abridged copy or not, but I find that it no longer matters that much to me.

Date: 2016-07-14 08:32 pm (UTC)
ext_24338: (Tree Sunlight)
From: [identity profile]
I remember loving the Pendragon Cycle books by Stephen Lawhead - they even have Atlantis in them!

They're set just after the Romans left, not in medieval times like a lot of them apparently are, and start before Arthur is born. The last book is set in a more modern era, with a reborn Arthur. Can't remember much about it offhand, just that I loved them at the time!
Edited Date: 2016-07-14 08:37 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-07-15 11:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm sure I read some Lawhead when I was at university - although I see that he's written a lot more since then - but I can't remember anything about them, or even if I liked them or not. I'll add them to the increasingly long list. Thanks!

Date: 2016-07-14 08:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Not 100% Arthurian, more pre-Arthurian and very faerie (and also set in a lost archipelago): Jack Vance's Lyonesse trilogy (Suldrun's Garden, Madouc and The Green Pearl). I love it.

Date: 2016-07-15 11:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I do keep meaning to read something by him, based mostly on your recommendations (and GRRM's.) Maybe this time I'll even get round to it...

Date: 2016-07-14 09:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers?

Date: 2016-07-15 11:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That sounds intriguing. Thanks!

Date: 2016-07-14 09:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Philip Reeve, Here Lies Arthur. A wonderful book.

Date: 2016-07-15 11:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I keep meaning to read that. Several times in the last few weeks, I've resolved to wander down to the other end of the building and borrow it, but somehow I keep on forgetting. Maybe I'll remember this time...

Date: 2016-07-15 04:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Seconded! I've finally managed to get hold of my own copy of that book and I'm really looking forward to a re-read.

Date: 2016-07-15 12:27 am (UTC)
the_rck: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_rck
GoodReads has some lists of Arthurian and Arthurian adjacent books (I've been browsing a couple of those, and apparently the Left Behind books have some sort of Arthurian connection. I'm a little dubious).

The stuff I know is mainly older than your target because I haven't read much Arthurian stuff recently. I know there are a lot of children's fantasies that are Arthurian in as much as they feature Merlin in some capacity. The Magic Tree House books, for example, involve Merlin and Morgan both. I don't recommend those for anyone over the age of about eight, however. I really, really don't. They're early reader chapter books and full of repetition

More children's books:

TA Barron has a very long series focused on young Merlin that I have not read.

Peter Dickinson's Changes Trilogy feature Merlin in The Weathermonger.

Tom McGowen's Sir Machinery has Merlin in the modern world (the book was written in the 1970s) and choosing a robot as an incorruptible champion of the light.

Pamela Service did a book or two about Merlin in the future, but I'm blanking on the names, and I'm not sure I actually ever read them (my younger sister owned them).

Avalon High by Meg Cabot is relatively recent and not at all terrible. It's a modern high school reincarnation story. I preferred the Disney movie adaptation because it was, IMO, more interesting in terms of who was who and how various people were involved.

Merlin's Mistake by Robert Newman is another old book. It's Arthurian adjacent in as much as it's set in that time period with Merlin as a supporting character. The mistake of the title involves a young man who Merlin intended to gift with precognition but instead gave him 'knowledge of the future' in the form of knowledge of science.

Gerald Morris has a long series, The Squire's Tales. I've only read the first book, and that's a high fantasy sort of thing focused on the the adventures of one particular knight (can't remember which) as seen through the eyes of his squire.

Stuff aimed at adults:

Camelot 3000 is a graphic novel from the 1980s that involves King Arthur waking in the year 3000 when Earth is about to be invaded. His knights have been reborn. I don't remember it clearly, so the sexism and racism fairies and their kin have likely been there.

Peter David wrote two King Arthur in the modern day books. The first one is called Knight Life. I remember liking it, but that needs a huge grain of salt since I read it about twenty years ago.

The Gray Hawk's Feather by Patricia Keannely-Morrison is... um... How to put it? She wrote a lot of books about Celts in space with both high technology and magic, and three of them focused on Arthur as a space Celt. I think the books are readable and worth looking at as something off at an angle to everything else, but YMMV.

Date: 2016-07-15 11:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
What a long, helpful list! Thank you! I've read a few of them - although some of them I can barely remember - but some of the others look promising. Thank you!

Date: 2016-07-15 04:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You might like Jo Walton's The King's Peace and The King's Name?

Date: 2016-07-15 11:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks! I'm definitely adding those to the list, since she's an author I very much like.

Date: 2016-07-15 05:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I loved The Mists of Avalon by Marian Zimmer Bradley and the Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart.

Date: 2016-07-15 11:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm know I read The Crystal Cave at university, but I really can't remember it. It's scary how quickly things can get forgotten. I remember having stubbornly-held Opinions about The Mists of Avalon, which meant that I refused to read it, but I can't now remember what those objections were. Something silly, no doubt. It's probably time to get over them, whatever they were! Thank you!

Date: 2016-07-15 06:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've always like David Drake's 'Dragon Lord'. It's an odd take on Arthur, but it was a fun read.

Date: 2016-07-15 11:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! I'll add it to the ever-growing list.

Date: 2016-07-15 04:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
MY FAVOURITE TOPIC. :) I haven't read the comments (although I will, I'm always up for more recs myself!) so apologies if I end up repeating things. Also, I may end up coming back as I can't remember everything on my shelf off the top of my head ...

Sarah Zettels' Camelot Quartet - Camelot's Shadow, Camelot's Honour, Camelot's Sword and Camelot's Blood. They're all absolutely wonderful and focus on the Orkney brothers and various women in their lives. I love these ridiculously, I find them fascinating and beautiful and I love the way they do the stories.

If you want something that's kind of goofy and fun and yet has some really interesting ideas on Arthurian legend, try Gerald Morris's The Squire Tales. My favourites are Sir Gawain, His Squire and His Lady and The Ballard of Sir Dinadan but they're all interesting and fun and charming. I haven't read the last two, looks like they're going to be a bit depressing because, well the ending of Arthurian legend usually is!

If you're receptive to an interesting Mordred story, Elizabeth Wein's The Winter Prince was very good like this and does different things with the story without vilifying Arthur (which I haaaaaaaaaate.)

The Road to Avalon by Joan Wolff. It was an interesting idea, I really liked the relationship between Arthur and Morgana (Morgan? I can't remember what they called her in this one) and it was just really pretty good.

Date: 2016-07-15 04:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, oh! Exiled from Camelot by Cherith Baldry. It was really exciting and different and made me very happy indeed. It's about Kay and telling a story that I didn't really know (might be made up) and I thought it was excellent.

Date: 2016-07-15 06:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That Sarah Zettel series looks very promising. I've got so many books on the list now that I doubt I'll get round to reading all of them before I move on to some other enthusiasm, but I'll put them near the top. I may well try The Road to Avalon, too. Thanks!

I've several times meant to try that Gerald Morris series. We've still got a few copies in stock, but they never really issued at all well, so I'll have to grab them before they get withdrawn.

I have read The Winter Prince - it was the "Mordred is just misunderstood" story that I mentioned. To be honest, I can't remember much about it now, so I could well be being unjust when I say that I just found it "okay." I read it more as a lead-in to the follow-up books set in Ethiopia, which someone had recommended to me, than as a book in its own right. I've still got it, so I may well return to it.

Date: 2016-07-15 09:37 pm (UTC)
hhimring: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hhimring
Not a novel, but if you haven't encountered it already, I'd recommend this piece by Quillori:


ladyofastolat: (Default)

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