Wednesday, November 4, 2009

If You Love King Arthur Stories, Check Out These Five Authors

King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, Guenevere, Merlin, the Lady of the Lake. Tristan and Isolde. Sir Kay, Sir Galahad, Sir Bors. If you love the legends surrounding Excalibur, Camelot, and Avalon, get your hands on these books and settle in for a trip back in time when chivalry was alive, when the knights wore armor and the damsels may have been in distress but were certainly capable of taking care of themselves.

Bernard Cornwell

Cornwell wrote a trilogy about Arthur and company (The Winter King, Enemy of God, Excalibur) and now is writing a series called The Grail Quest. On his website he says that The Warlord Chronicles were his favorite. He includes lots of battles and lots of blood and guts. None of these books is for the faint-hearted, but if you want a realistic picture of what life was like in the early days of Britain, you'll find that here. The Grail Quest takes place in the fourteenth century in England and France and follows a fellow named Thomas of Hookton as he searches for the Holy Grail.

Stephen Lawhead, Pendragon Cycle

There are five books in this series, beginning with Taliesin. Taliesin is a bard of unknown origins who falls in love with Charis, a girl from Atlantis, and they become the parents of Merlin. Author Stephen Lawhead writes beautifully, setting the scenes so well that you'd swear you were actually living with the characters. Merlin gets the second book in the series, and Arthur gets the others. The books are filled with the colors, sights, and sounds of battles, songs, the countryside, bad-tempered villains, and heroic good guys. Lawhead uses Welsh and Gaelic spellings for some names, which should appeal to language lovers. Most of the legendary elements are here, although the final book, Grail, feels a bit tacked-on, like Lawhead realized he'd left out that part of the story and went back to include it. At least read the first three books. If you like them, read the fourth, which goes back to fill in glossed-over areas. Only if you absolutelylove those should you read Grail. The series is enjoyable enough without it.

Rosalind Miles

If you like your female characters to kick butt, try Rosalind Miles' Guenevere trilogy. Taking her from girl to queen, Miles presents Guenevere's side of the legend. Lancelot is here as well as Arthur's bastard son Mordred. How might Guenevere have felt about each man in her life? Miles shifts her focus for another set of books, turning to the minor (and sometimes non-existant) character Isolde. Isolde is heir to the throne of Ireland but falls in love with Sir Tristan, one of Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. This legend is not as well-known and so if you've read everything else about Arthur and Guenevere, try this one about Isolde. Even if you don't continue, at least get the first one, Isolde: Queen of the Western Isle.

photo courtesy of Flickr

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