Writer: Giles Kristian
Publishing House: Random House UK
Date of Publication: May 31st 2018
Rating: 5 stars
”I smell the rising fog of the crowd’s breath. It warms my feathers against the thin dawn air and I watch. I feel, too. More than a bird should feel. The sorrow which lies over the assembly like a shroud. The fear. The uncertainty and the regret.”
A boy who watched his people perish. A student who became the first among his ranks, guided by Lady Nimue and Merlin. A young warrior who fought by the side of a great leader. A man who loved the one woman he wasn’t allowed to. A fighter. A betrayer. His name became part of the greatest saga. Lancelot.
”The day after Uther died, grey clouds rolled in from the ocean to cloak Tintagel in a dark pull and the sound of women’s wailing hung in the air like the threat of rain. I’d heard some women saying that Britain was gods-cursed, which was why the Saxons were getting stronger while our own great warlord lay stiff and cold.”
It seems difficult to breathe new life to a legend that has been echoing loudly throughout the ages. No matter our cultural background, we all know about Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Morgana, Merlin and Morder and the stories of the Knights of the Round Table. By placing Lancelot at the centre of the action, Kristian achieves the impossible. He makes the legend new, he creates a wondrous tale that you feel you’ve never heard before.
The story is stripped of most of High Fantast elements. What we have is a very realistic, raw and rich adventure of a land that tries to stand on two boats. The pagan past and Christianity, the lust of every warlord-king and the urgent need to unify and defend itself against the invaders. Whatever magic there is can be found deeply connected to the ancient roots and the sacred traditions that accompany the warriors of old before a new age that is about to begin. Lancelot embodies the very humane confusion of struggling to belong and do your duty, divided by good sense and the demands of the heart that walks on a path of its own. The druids and their conspiracies, the gods of War and the Sea and the shriek of Morrigan’s call are loud and depicted in extraordinary detail and accuracy.
Lancelot is a controversial character in the Arthurian saga. Here, he becomes the protagonist, a very sympathetic voice who fights between loyalty and love. Arthur is the leader we all know, Merlin is the voice of the past, Morder is the sly one but his motives are clear and he becomes quite the tragic figure. It is Guinevere I really, really loved. Kristian presents a true heroine, enchanting, mysterious, pragmatic, level-headed. As it is always the women who are blamed for every ill that befell Arthur and his dream, this version of Guinevere is the best I’ve ever come across.
Fierce battles, legends that rise from the mists of a sacred land, character larger than life. Giles Kristian reimagines the Arthurian epic and the result is unique. I can’t wait to read Camelot.
”A prince without a kingdom and a hawk that can’t fly. The bards could weave a sad tale there.”