Welcome All- A Few Things to Know

Welcome All- A Few Things to Keep In Mind:

1. Hi all. I'm Storyteller Knight. You can find me on Fictionpress where I write novels about King Arthur, Superheroes and Vampires (but not at the same time) and at Pardon My Sarcasm where I rage about how the republicans are ruining all things.

2. Here is the Master List of books read, books owned and books needed to complete a series. Superscripts next to title links to reviews on this site. Or you can search using the lables.

3. I'm approaching this blog with the assumption that everyone reading already knows the ultimate spoiler of the King Arthur Legend: Everyone Dies. Those who read King Arthur books do so to see different interpretations of the characters and the stories. My goal here is to analyze the effectiveness of those interpretations. Thus, all my reviews will include spoilers.

4. This is not an Arthurian 101 blog. As I said above, I'm assuming that everyone reading already knows the legend and is looking for different interpretations of that legend. Therefore, I'm not going to take time to explain who the characters are and what roles they traditionally play. Links to Arthurian Encyclopedias at the bottom of the page.

5. These reviews are my opinions of the books. I may hate a book you love or I may love a book you hate. If you have a different opinion, write it up. I'd be more than happy to have some guest posts.

6. Please don't ask me (or any of the guest bloggers) to do your homework for you. As I said above, this is a blog dedicated at looking at these books from an Arthurian perspective. If you comment on posts asking us what the theme is or such, we're just going to screw with you.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Review: The Legend of the King

Title: Legend of the King
Author: Gerald Morris
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books
Pages: 295
Synopsis: (from the publisher) Sir Terence has come a long way since he first left his guardian twenty years ago and joined the insolent Gawain as his squire.  Dark Forces are at work in England, and Terence and Gawain had set off once more in service of King Arthur, but this time the two friends are sent on separate missions.  At last, a true Knight of the Round Table, Terence has no time to rest on his laurels, but must continue his work to protect King Arthur and the peace that the king and his knights have created for England.  Unfortunately, the king's enemies are at work as well.  Morgause and Mordred had spies even at Camelot itself, and together mother and son attempt to divide the Fellowship of the Round Table, bring Camelot to ruin, and place Mordred on the throne.

In this final installment of the Squire's Tales series, Terence and his fellow Knights of the Round Table must ready their swords, enchantments, and wit to come together in a last stand to save Camelot.  The characters Gerald Morris has brought to life throughout his series--Terence and Gawain, Lynet and Gaheris, Luneta and Rhience, Dinadan and Palomides--each have an important role to play if they are to defeat their enemies.  Only by maintaining their faith, selflessness, and honor, can Morgause and Mordred banish and defeat the dark magic from England forever.  
"Is the Arthurian mythos more than Arthur’s death?  I think Gerald Morris would answer that question with a ‘yes’.  But I also don’t think he’s sure.  And I think that uncertainty has wormed its way into the subtext.  I have one more book to go and only then will I know if the Squire’s Tales will forever be defined by Arthur’s death or remembered for something more." X
(Also, this book is not, in fact, about Mordred and Morgause working together to banish the forces of evil and I am done with book blurbs forever).

Warning for Spoilers

 The Twist

So this is it.  The Death of Arthur.  The Fall of Camelot.  The Battle of Camlann.  The end of the Squire's Tales series.  The end of the story.

As the far as the Fall of Arthur goes, it's pretty standard fair.  There's really nothing new here.  However, for the Squire's Tales Series, there is a new twist.  Each chapter has a different POV character (Terence, Dinadan, and Lynet are the only ones who repeat).  Every chapter has is it's own character beat with the story only loosely flowing together.  Characters pass in and out of Arthur's war with Mordred--some playing an integral role while others are left to pick up the pieces.

So, to that end, I'm changing up the review.  Instead of looking at the plot, then the characters, I'm going to look at the plot and characters together as they appear throughout the story.  Because this book is so focused on the character beats, there's really no way to pull the two apart.

The Plot/The Characters

Chapter One- Dinadan
"His humor and grief are so real and so human that they truly breath some much needed life into this drudgery."
The book opens with Dinadan, picking up where Squire's Quest left off.  While on the road to Constantinople, Dinadan and the envoys from Acoriondes are captured.  Dinadan manages to escape with the help of his music and Palomides' timely arrival.  After diffusing a situation caused by Alis' infatuation with Fenice (he accidentally since a love letter to a neighboring ruler who also goes by Phoenix), the two friends kick back and enjoy their reunion.  Their enjoyment is cut short, however, when a djinn shows up and reveals that Mordred has gone to war against Arthur.  Dinadan decides to return to Britain and Palomides agrees to go with him.

I love Dinadan.  Like in Squire's Quest, Dinadan is a giant breath of fresh air.  I'm very pleased Morris decided to begin the book in his perspective, as it gives a lighter tone to what is otherwise a relentlessly bleak book.  I'm pleased to see Palomides again too.  I just wish we had gotten to see more of these two.

Chapter Two- Terence
"To Gareth, Lancelot is the greatest knight there is and he won't hear anyone say boo about his hero." X
Gareth arrives at Camelot in a sour mood and immediately gets drunk along with Agravaine, Florence and Lovel.  Gawain can't abide with their ridiculousness and goes to a council with Arthur, Kai, and a handful of knights.  Mordred's army has been spotted in Cornwall and Scotland, so Gawain and Terence split up with Gawain returning to Orkney and Terence looking in on Mordred's activities in Cornwall.  Before setting out, Lancelot, Gawain, and Terence return to the tavern for a drink only to find Gareth brawling.  Turns out, Lyoness and Mordred have hooked up and Gareth has been turned out of his castle.  Lancelot tries to help, but only ends up making the situation worse as Gareth turns his malice on Guinevere and her affair with Lancelot.  Terence knocks Gareth unconscious and the next day, Gawain and Terence take their leave.

I'm...not enamored with this portrayal of Gareth.  Gareth's first and foremost characteristic is that he is loyal to Lancelot above all else.  He sides with Lancelot over his family.  He bears no ill will toward Lancelot or Guinevere after their affair is revealed, which is why he is standing by Guinevere's side, unarmed, when Lancelot comes to rescue her.  I don't care how drunk or bitter Gareth is, he's not going to air out Lancelot's dirty laundry like that.  Nor am I particularly pleased with how Lyoness is handled.  His portrayal of her character may have been selfish to the extreme, but her refusal to marry the Red Knight showed that she had her limits.  I just can't see her having ambitions beyond her own castle or betraying her marriage to Gareth.

Like most of the female characters from Morris' books, Lyoness dies off screen.  Murdered by Mordred when she outlived her usefulness.

Chapter Three- Agravaine
"That’s why I have argued that the ‘angry youths who just want war’ is a problematic trope for the legends that needs to die out.  Because if the younger generations do not hear Arthur’s call for peace, prosperity, and justice—if they remain selfish and hungry for their own blood soaked glory—than the legend is nothing more than ‘the death of Arthur’."
Agravaine journeys to the ruins of a chapel to meet with Morgause.  Morris actually does a really good job here and it makes me wish he'd written a whole book from the perspective of an unreliable narrator like Agravaine instead of constantly going to the straight man, because he's really good at this.  He weaves back and forth effortlessly between what Agravaine wants to be true (he is valued by his mother, he is smart and cunning, he succeeds in everything he attempts) and what is actually true (Morgause doesn't value him, he isn't smart, and his plans only succeed because of the actions of others).

Morgause convinces Agravaine to strike at Arthur through Lancelot and Guinevere and tells him to get the help of Mador de La Porte (a minor knight who often aligns with Mordred).  Mador conspires to send falsified letters to Lancelot and Guinevere, arranging a meeting in Guinevere's chambers while Agravaine organizes a bunch of young, angry, blood thirsty knights to catch Lancelot and Guinevere in the act.  At least Gareth gets a moment of redemption here.  Now sober, he refuses to partake in Agravaine's raid.

Ten knights end up 'catching' Lancelot and Guinevere.  Determined to protect the Queen, Lancelot does battle with all of them.  The chapter ends when Agravaine is killed.

Chapter Four- Lynet
"Like Gawain, Gaheris is very smart and practical but unlike Gawain he's a terrible fighter (in something that later becomes a thing, it's pointed out that Gaheris prefers to stay on defense on the battle, allowing his enemy to tire out)." X
We join Lynet and Gaheris in Orkney, which is under siege by Mordred's men.  It's a dire situation, made a little better by the well known and much missed banter between Lynet and Gaheris.  After calling for a parlay, Mordred's envoy agrees to let everyone go free in exchange for Gaheris.  Gaheris wants to agree, but the villagers talk him into fighting.  Gaheris is trying to get his head around this show of loyalty when he catches sight of the knights coming to take him prisoner and a new plan forms.  Lynet disguises a recently deceased soldier as Gaheris while he goes out and fights Mordred's biggest, strongest knight in a trial by combat.  During the battle, Lynet escapes with the townspeople.  Terrified, Lynet waits hours, only to have Gaheris show up arm in arm with Gawain, who was the biggest strongest knight in Mordred's army.  Gaheris and Gawain faked the battle, faked Gaheris' death, and then ran off in the confusion.  From there, the three decide to return to Camelot.

As always, both Lynet and Gaheris are sharp.  Not much gets past them and their romance is as scarppy as ever.  Gawain and Gaheris also have excellent brotherly banter.  As far as tone goes, this chapter is most similar to Morris' early books.  Which, as far as I'm concerned, makes it the best chapter in the book.

Chapter Five- Terence
"Just imagine how fascinating this book could have been if Guinglain, Galahad and Mordred go on this adventure for the grail together and along the way they’re horrified of what’s become of Arthur’s kingdom.  Like, I adore Arthur in this series and I think he’s a fantastic king, but there’s some shit going down in his kingdom that doesn’t really reflect well on him." X
Terence makes his way across England, following the trail of Mordred's White Horsemen.  He comes across ravaged hermitages and farms and the few people he encounters believe that is is Arthur's men who destroy their livelihoods and killed their family members.  Leaving them to their grief, Terence tries to sneak into Mordred's camp, only to be captured because a spell from Morgause allows him to sense Terence's presence and a spell from a hag causes Terence to believe he's in a forest when he's really in the middle of Mordred's camp.  And I'm sorry, but I laughed as seeing Terence so thoroughly played.  Of course, then Mordred just has to make the classic blunder and has Terence tied up instead of just killing him right away, as he's supposed to.  He and Terence exchange information, because of course they do.  Mordred is about to kill Terence with Terence's enchanted knife, but it's gone and that distracts Mordred enough to just leave BECAUSE OF COURSE HE DOES.  The knife then frees Terence and he escapes out into the night.  

Chapter Six- Arthur
"My only complaint about this growth that Guinevere goes through over this course of the book is that it all happens off screen.  That you only see it from the perspective of other characters is a travesty." X
Arthur visits Guinevere in her chambers, where she's been imprisoned, and they hash it out.  Every grievance they've ever had with each other over their marriage is laid out in the open.  And I can't for the life of me figure out why this chapter is in Arthur's perspective and not Guinevere's.  We know how Arthur feels on this matter.  Even though he's never been a POV character, we've had a book's worth of text spent on examining his anguish over Guinevere's betrayal because Terence sympathized with Arthur.   We also had a whole book examining Lancelot's shame over his behavior because Sarah sympathized with him.  What we have not had, and are sorely lacking, is Guinevere's perspective on what happened because no one ever sympathized with her.  The moment where we finally (and only) hear her perspective on those events should not have been when she was on the defensive against Arthur.  It should not have been when we were fully immersed in his anguish when we should have been immersed in her despair.

I want to know what Guinevere thinks of all this--how she feels about the affair getting drudged up again after all these years.  Does she trust Arthur?  Did she start off trusting Arthur, then slowly gave into despair when he didn't come to her?  What does she feel when she learns he never really forgave her for what happened with Lance--when she finally sees the depths of his anger?  How betrayed does she feel when she realizes she spent all these years recognizing the pain she caused him and trying to make amends only to learn that not once, in all their years together, did Arthur ever try to understand what happened from her perspective?  That she was a child married off to a man with an impossible distance between them that he, as the adult and the one with the power, never made any attempt to close.  Where the hell is Guinevere's voice in this series?  Where is the voice of the most important female character in the Arthurian mythos, period.

Arthur then sets up the trail to ensure Guinevere will be found innocent, and even if she isn't, he cam pardon her.  Bishop Nacien, Sir Parsifal, and Goodwife Grete are the judges.  The trial itself is fun to read, as Goodwife Grete eviscerates Mador and his charge of treason.  Mador tries then to accuse Lancelot, but that doesn't work and Parsifal and Kai prepare to take him out.  Then Lancelot rides in, killing Gareth on accident and abducting Guinevere over her protests.  Arthur, in a truly sensible and kingly decision, orders his knights to march on Joyous Garde.  Because of course he does.

Chapter Seven- Lynet
"In this book, Lynet is the main character and every other character is secondary to her.  As it really should be, because in the original story Lynet was something fierce and there really needs to be more stories out there about her.  I really enjoyed how Morris kept the heart and soul of this character from original story (a character with a quick and brutal tongue and never lacking an insult) while still allowing her room to grow over the course of the story." X
Lynet, Gaheris, and Gawain come across Griflet, who has fled Camelot.  He tells them of Lancelot and Guinevere's 'betrayal' and how Arthur has marched on Joyous Garde.  Gawain accuses Griflet of cowardice and he takes his leave of them.  Our three heroes talk among themselves and determine that Morgause must be behind this divide in the Round Table (I...she rescued Mordred at the end of the last book.  Why do people keep forgetting about her and the threat she poses?).  Gaheris suggests they go after her (about freaking time) and Lynet tries to figure out a way to track her.

A crow happens upon Lynet while she goes off to think and offers to take her to someone who can give her power.  This someone is Hecate, who, as far as I can tell, is responsible for creating The Enchantress (that great force of evil in the world apparently must be given by another while The Enchanter's power is his own and static).  Lynet tells Hecate she wants power to locate Morgause and Hecate tries to tempt Lynet with greater, more dangerous power (essentially to make Lynet the next Enchantress).  Lynet refuses and Hecate says that in order to gain power, Lynet needs to tie her life to something or someone else--making her immortal so long as this person or object is whole/alive.

Lynet returns to Gawain and Gaheris and tells them that Morgause is at her old home.  The three begin to make their way there and during the journey, Lynet finds herself growing less and less human.  In the courtyard of the castle they find a dragon waiting for them and Gawain fights it while Gaheris and Lynet go to confront Morgause.  Like the legend, Gaheris walks in on his mother and Lamorak sharing a room (likely they had sex earlier, but this is a children's book and Morgause is doing work while Lamorak slept).  Gaheris and Lamorak battle it out while Lynet studies Moraguse, who is clearly terrified by Gaheris' presence.  Lynet figures out that Moraguse bound her life to herself so she couldn't be killed, except she was pregnant with Gaheris at the time and he's the only person who can kill her.  Morgause tries to goad Lamorak into killing Gaheris, which only sends him towards her.  Knowing that Morgause needs to be stopped at all costs, Gaheris cuts off her head only to be mortally wounded by Lamorak.  Gawain arrives then and kills Lamorak.  Lynet collapses, revealing that she had tied her life to Gaheris' and will now die with him.

This section is really quite excellent.  It's a great twist on the traditional story of Gaheris killing Morgause after he finds her in bed with Lamorak.  Gaheris actually has a reason for killing Morgause beyond finding her in bed with another man and truly gets to shine as a hero in a moment that is most often a dark mark for the character.  It's great for Lynet too, who usually fades into the background after the Beaumains adventure.  The two work together in a desperate attempt to save Camelot and quite simply it's a beautiful moment for both of them.

Chapter Eight- Terence
"As for the ladies, they were even worse--simpering wraiths of soppy sentimentality.  It was enough to make one root for the dragons."  Author's Note, pg 283
 You want to talk about simpering wraiths of soppy sentimentality, Mr. Morris?

Terence hangs around Mordred's camp for a couple weeks because why not.  Mordred can sense your location and cause you to hallucinate a forest where there isn't one (one would also assume Mordred's hag should be able to conjure soldiers where there aren't any, just to keep Terence on his toes, and make the ones who are there invisible.  But nooooooo).  This is totally a sound and sensible plan, Terence.  And what pisses me off is that it works and Mordred doesn't catch him.  Because these characters--these male characters--really aren't characters at this point.  They are plot devices.

Terence wakes up in the middle of the night, having overslept, to the sound of Mordred and the hag having a conversation a few feet away from him.  Now that Morgause is dead, Mordred is having a moment of clarity and has realized just how much she had manipulated him and kept him complacent to her plans.  Now that she's no longer in control, he's just gonna go wreck shit because he can.  To make his point, Mordred kills his illusion creating hag because of reasons.  Terence finally has the information he wants and decides to hightail it back to Arthur to tell him Mordred is coming.

Arriving at Joyous Garde, Terence finds a dire situation.  Gawain is there, depressed because of what happened to Gaheris and Lynet.  Arthur is out of his mind with rage--truly believing that Lancelot and Guinevere betrayed him because of course he does.  Kai and Parsifal both have tried to convince Arthur he's being an idiot to no avail and Terence has no better luck.  Well, maybe Lancelot is being more sensible.  He is with Guinevere, after all.  Surely she's told him what a twat he was, riding in like that, killing Arthur's knights and essentially abducting her while she shouted at him to stop.
"So you can execute her?  I'm sorry, sire.  Though I die for it, that I cannot do."  pg 169.
Simpering wraiths of soppy sentimentality indeed.

I'm sorry, but where is Guinevere in all this?  After the trial, we never hear from her again.  She is mentioned by other characters.  She is fought over by Arthur and Lancelot as though she is nothing more than a slab of meat.  She has no voice.  She is an object and I am offended.  I am offended at Arthur and Lancelot acting like such ninnies.  I am offended that Arthur is so blinded by his rage here that he will not even consider the possibility that he is wrong or realize that Lancelot honest to god believes Arthur intends to execute Guinevere.  I'm offended that Lancelot's insistence that he's protecting Guinevere from execution doesn't cause Arthur to go 'what the hell are you talking about?  I would never kill her' (as he does after the trial by combat when Bishop Nacien shows up to mediate).  I am offended that Lancelot, so concerned with Guinevere well being, has apparently not spoken to her in the weeks since he abducted her.  I am offended that Gerald Morris has the gall to describe the ladies of previous children's retellings as 'simpering wraiths of soppy sentimentality' when his male character act like this.  When he goes on to completely erase the voice of the most prominent Arthurian female character.  I am offended that Morris doesn't even consider Guinevere's agency when it comes to the determination of her own fate (stay with Lancelot or go with Arthur).

You cheered for the dragons, Mr. Morris?  Right here, right now, I'm cheering for Mordred.  He's evil.  At least he has an excuse for making poorly thought out decisions.

Arthur and Lancelot agree to trial combat with Gawain fighting on Arthur's behalf.  Gawain nearly wins the first day, thanks to his sun strength, but then calls a parlay because he can't kill Lancelot while he's helpless.  He calls for the battle to start the next day in the afternoon where the advantage will be Lancelot's.  This time Lancelot nearly wins, but can't bring himself to kill Gawain.  They seem to be at an impasse when Bishop Nacien shows up and our oh so intelligent male characters finally discover they've been fighting over nothing and this whole thing could have been solved weeks ago if they'd just listened to Guine--wait, no.  She's not mentioned outside of the affair.  Which Lancelot still has to atone for according to the Bishop.  He has to travel around Britain confessing to holy men and then leave England.           

Chapter Nine- Luneta
"This is what I mean what I talk about the isolation and dis-empowerment of the youth in Arthurian legends." X
Luneta wakes up in the middle of the night to the realization that her mother is dead.  She and Rhience decide to set off for Orkney the next night, but Morgan le Fay arrives before they can leave.  She's summoning all the enchantresses in the land to a meeting with Ganscotter.  They spent weeks traveling across Britain at a magical speed, collecting a dozen other enchantresses, before finally arriving at Laudine's castle.  To their delight, Ywain is there as well, because Laudine has held him back from the fighting due to the fear of her own safety.

They arrive at the Henge to find everyone else in England who has fairy blood gathered there as well, including Piers and Ariel.  Ganscotter announces that because of Lynet's sacrifice--using Hecate's power for a selfless act without care to her own well being--was enough to lock Hecate out of our world forever.  There will never be another Enchantress, so there's no longer a need for the Seelie Court to play a role in the world.  Ganscotter says that no one is required to leave, but those that stay will lose their power and will be at risk as men turn against them.  Piers and Arial both retreat to the Otherworld.  Laudine wants to go as well, since she'll lose her beauty if she stays, but Ywain decides he must go help Arthur.  The two separate and I can't help but feel a great deal of sympathy for Laudine.  She's lived a lifetime of people abandoning her and she knows her only power comes from her beauty...I know Ywain feels strongly that it is his duty to serve Arthur, but I wish he had taken a moment to consider how awful the world was for Laudine before she gained her great beauty and the little bit of power that came with it.  Luneta and Rhiece decide to stay as well in order to save a little girl they saw in Ganscotter's dark vision of the future.

It's important to note, Ywain is the only named character from his generation to fight with Arthur against Mordred.

Chapter Ten- Guinglain
"He then sided with Mordred in revealing Lancelot and Guinevere's affair to the court.  Like... not a good guy.  But instead we get this wide-eyed child who is the most naive character Morris has ever written, and after Parsifal that's saying something." X
Lancelot journeys across England confessing and eventually runs into Guinglain, who has no real interest in hearing his confession but indulges Lancelot anyways.  He then decides to travel with Lancelot because his hermitage is about to be overrun by the White Horseman.  They talk to a lot of priest--some who care about Lancelot's sin and give him penance, some like Guinglain who don't care.  Lancelot visits Pedwyr from the sixth book, who had built his tomb, and apologizes that he won't be able to be laid to rest there.  From there they go south and find Godwulf's (from Lioness and Her Knight) hermitage completely destroyed and all but one of the inhabitants massacred.  They pass Camelot and discover that the White Horsemen have dismantled it stone by stone and taken most of the ladies captive--including Guinevere, Sarah and Eileen.

Finally, they meet up with Bishop Nacien and Lancelot cusses him out.  Arthur needs him now and he's being forced to leave England forever.
"'Did I say forever?' Archbishop Nacien asked quietly."  pg 227
Piss off, dude.  Seriously.  Nacien claims that what he really wanted all along was for Lancelot to go to France and raise an army for Arthur, but I call bullshit.  If that was the point, why not just send him to do that.  Mordred's army was breathing down their necks.  Why the hell would you let Lancelot dither around the countryside talking to monks when we're in the middle of a war Lancelot could easily change the tide of.  This is more evidence of the plot driving the characters of this book instead of the other way around.  Anyways, Lancelot leaves for Benouic and Guinglain continues on to where Arthur is in Dover.

Chapter 11- Terence
"All Arthurian authors struggle with this question.  And it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that yes, the legend is defined by his death. I mean, the arguably defining book on the subject is titled ‘The Death of Arthur.’  That would seem to be the closing argument on the subject." X
You know, as boring as I find this portrayal of Mordred and despite wishing that Morris had done something more innovative, I gotta hand it to the guy.  He spent arguably all of his life being controlled by Morgause.  And the moment he is free of her, he burns Camelot to the ground and starts decimating what's left of Arthur's army through a very clever hit and run raiding strategy.  Makes you wonder what he could have accomplished if he'd been acting on his own the entire time without Morgause clouding his mind.  He might have actually killed Terence when he was supposed to.

Mador is sent as an envoy to Arthur's camp to brag about Mordred destroying Camelot and taking Guinevere hostage.  Then he tells Arthur he has two hours to surrender and smartly retreats.  Terence goes after him to see where Mordred's camp is, but Mador is going the wrong way and Terence's fairy friend Robin sets him straight.  Arthur's army is able to get the jump on Mordred and sends the White Horseman scattering.  Terence and Gawain then go to the beach where they heard an army gathering right before they attacked Mordred.  They find Mador, who was plotting a trap for Arthur, expecting Terence to follow him and give Arthur a false location.  They also find the body of Griflet, who came back with a contingent of knights and put a stop to the ambush at the beach, giving his life in the process.

Gawain is injured, so he and Terence hurry back to the came so Gawain can receive treatment, but it doesn't look good for him.  They find more of Mordred's ships on the water and honestly, where, when, and how did he build this army without anyone noticing?  Ships, white horses, enough murderous citizens to outnumber Arthur's army...this stuff doesn't just grown on trees.  

Realizing that is hopeless, Arthur tries to tell his knights to flee, but they won't hear it.  They assemble their army on Barham Down, presumably Camlann was unavailable, and charge against Mordred's army.  There's a back and forth between the two armies.  Arthur starts off well, then Mordred manages a push back.  Gawain miraculously shows up in a feat of strength that really doesn't receive an explanation but Mordred eventually gets another push back.  Lancelot shows up with his army.  Terence sees Arthur battling Mordred.  He gets Mordred, then goes down himself.  Terence tries to go after him, then gets struck down.

Terence wakes up to find Bedievere waiting beside him and that's cheating.  Bedivere retrieves Excalibur from Mordred's body and takes Terence to the sea.  As they go, the rest of Arthur's knights pick themselves up off the battlefield and follow them.  Terence has no idea what's going on, but Gawain seems to know.  This is never explained.  All the knights who died before the battle are already at the beach, even Agravain which doesn't make much sense.  Then the ladies come, processing with Arthur's body.  Eileen and Sarah are both there, which suggests that Mordred killed them sometime after taking Camelot (do you know how angry I am to see Sarah die off screen and not go down fighting against the man who murdered her fiance?).  It's worth noting that neither Kai's wife nor his son are mentioned here at all.

Arthur, who appears to be peacefully sleeping, is placed on a barge along with Excalibur.  Morgan, who received this offer from Ganscotter earlier, gets on the barge with him, to wait with Arthur until he's called into the world again.  The barge pulls away from the shore and disappears out into sea.  Ganscotter turns to those assembled on the beach and asks if they want to go home.

And I have so many questions.  What is home?  Is it the Otherworld with Piers and Ariel and Laudine?  Is it somewhere else?  If it is somewhere else, will Gawain be able to be with Lorie (the reason it had to end like this?) or will they be forced to remain separated?  If it's the Otherworld, why aren't Piers, Ariel and Laudine at the beach?  What happened to Arthur and why?  Will the other characters, Arthur's Guard of Honor as Gawain calls them, be there when he wakes up?  If so, why did he need to go?  If not, what the hell was Gawain talking about?  This ending for Terence and Gawain-- the ending that was supposed to be happy and their reward for staying apart from their loved ones in service to Arthur--is entirely unsatisfying.

Chapter 12Dinadan
"Is Camelot more than it’s destruction?  No.  Not in this series.  Not while Arthur claims that there is no one qualified to rule after him outside of Mordred who showed up a month ago." X
Dinadan and Palomides arrive days after the battle ends because Lancelot stole all the ships out of France.  They come across what's left of the battlefields where Guinglain--cheerful as ever--is burying the dead.  Guinglain isn't sure what happened during the battle.  He knows that Mordred is dead and his army was crushed, but he can't find Arthur's body and has only found a few of Arthur's knights.

After they spend a few days burying bodies, they go to Brangienne's convent to see if she can tell them more.  Now the Mother Superior, Brangienne tells them that Lancelot has retaken Jean Le Forestier's name and has gone to Pedwyr's tomb.  She also tells them that Guinevere has joined the convent under the name Sister Arthur.

From there, they meet up with Rhience and Luneta, who found the girl they were looking for and intend to raise her as their own.  They then go on to Godwulf's hermitage.  The new hermit asks Dinadan to play and he gives in to despair, claiming that he has no music left now that there is no hope in the world.  Guinglain convinces him that there is still hope among them and Dinadan plays the tale of Gawain and the Green Knight.  The book ends with the group separating.  Luneta and Rhience return to Sussex with their adopted daughter.  Guinglain goes back to his hermitage to rebuild and Dinadan and Palomides travel through England singing the tales of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, trying to keep the legend alive.

This also isn't a very satisfying ending.  Beyond the absolute despair that really isn't lifted, despite Guinglain's best efforts, am I really supposed to believe that Mordred got everything?  There's no talk of Palomides and Dinadan going to any courts to tell their stories.  We don't even know if any courts survived.  Charis?  Philomena?  Obviously there are still people in Orkney and Sussex, but you're not really left with the sense of any grand scale beyond Godwulf's hermitage.  Does anyone come in after Arthur or is England left to just be city states?  Where is Constantine?  Why wouldn't Luneta claim her heritage as Arthur's great-niece.  What about Kai's son?  There's more do this ending than Dinadan and his stories.  Camelot may be gone, but something has to grow up in it's place.  The ending seems all the more hopeless by Morris not even bringing it up.

"If the battle at the end is not about ‘who rules’ but instead ‘how do we do better’, then Camelot is about more than it’s destruction.  If Arthur manages to teach the generation after him and impart his wisdom, then the story isn’t about his death, but his legacy." X  
 There's some really good stuff in this book.  The two chapters from Lynet's perspective are just brilliant and I kinda wish the whole book had been kicked back to her.  Then the mortal stuff could have ended with the death of Morgause and we could have seen more about how things were going down in the Seeli Court--why must Arthur sleep, how do they feel about the door closing, Otherworld vs Afterlife-- instead of another unoriginal version of Arthur and Mordred's battle.

There was also some stuff in this book that was really bad.  Not nearly as offensive as Squire's Quest or as bland as Quest for the Fair Unknown, but still pretty bad.  The erasure of Guinevere when telling the fallout of her affair with Lancelot is unacceptable.  Many of the characters act in opposition to their established characteristics to further a weak plot.  The battle between Arthur and Lancelot is just bizarre considering how easily that should have been solved.  Mordred's decision to continue to Morgause's plan after learning she had been controlling him is just off and the fact that he does so well without her his borderline unbelievable.

Finally, I must voice my own disappointment that so much time is spend destroying Camelot and no time is spent on building what comes next--whether that be in the human world or the fairy underworld.  A poor attempt is made to reinsert hope into the narrative during the last two pages, but it's not nearly enough after everything that's happened.  It ends up affirming the fear I voiced during my addendum to the Squire's Quest.  The Squire's Tales will forever be defined by the death of Arthur because Morris leaves no room for it to be defined by anything else, and that's disappointing.

3 Stars.


  1. This review is perfect. I also found this book not as good as the previous ones :(

  2. I found it to be a little better than Fair Unknown and a lot better than Squire's Quest. But compared to the first seven books of the series, it really is poorly done.