Written by Giles Kristian
Published by Bantam Press
Publication date: 14th June 2018
Summary (from Goodreads):
Set in a 5th century post-Roman Britain besieged by invading war bands of Saxons and Franks, Irish and Picts, Giles Kristian’s epic new novel tells – through the warrior’s own words – the story of Lancelot, the most celebrated of all King Arthur’s knights. And it’s a story that’s ready to be re-imagined for our times.
It’s a story imbued with the magic and superstition that was such an integral part of the enchanted landscape of Britain during this dark times. Many of the familiar names from Arthurian mythology will be here – Mordred and Gawain, Morgana and, of course, Merlin – as will be those vital icons of the legend such as the Round Table and the sword in the stone but these will be reinvented, reforged for a new generation of readers.
Lancelot is a story of warriors and kings, of violent, of warfare and bloodshed but it is also a story of loyalty and friendship, of over-arching ambition, of betrayal and guilt, of love and lust, and the win tragedies of revenge and remorse.
Scroll right down to the bottom for the giveaway!
We will not yield.
We are the swords of Britain.
The lords of battle.
I wanted to read this as soon as I heard the title and saw the cover because I have always been a massive fan of the legends of King Arthur. Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur is probably the definitive version, but the story has been told and retold, reimagined and embroidered so many times, that there is no one version that stands above all others. One of the things I think is at the root of the enduring appeal of the stories of King Arthur and his knights is that we will never really know exactly what happened, so there is space for our imagination to run wild.
First impressions: It’s beautiful! I love the detail on the cover and the heft of the book. It is big though, which could either be a welcome challenge or a bit intimidating. Don’t worry, get stuck in and the pages will fly past!
The story follows Lancelot from the age of 8, as his family loses their kingdom and is displaced. Soon he is very far away from his childhood home, unsure of his place without his family and meeting people who are to play an important role in later events. Very soon we start to recognise names – Nimue, Pelleas, Merlin, Guinevere – but Uther Pendragon is still King.
The story is told through Lancelot’s eyes and I am so glad that this story is finally being told. Lancelot is often known only as a brave knight whose disloyalty to his king caused the downfall of Arthur’s kingdom. Yet, I always felt that there had to be more to the story than that. Finally, we get one version of what could have happened.
In the afterword, the authors mentions that he followed the story where it wanted to go without worrying about fitting everything in with the historical facts. Yet, our understanding of this period is so fragmentary anyway, that this does not damage the story in any way. In fact, it might even strengthen it – through Lancelot we have a strong voice and a sympathetic, nuanced character who breathes life into these semi-historical events. As a reader we believe in him, suffer with him and feel acutely the forces which trap him in situations where nobody can emerge a winner. While wanting to cheer on his relationship with Guinevere, as a reader yo can also see the forces tangling around them making a happy outcome very unlikely.
This is the first book by Giles Kristian that I have read, but it certainly won’t be the last. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this emotive book kicks off a new interest in Arthurian legend and revitalises a fascination which, for most English people, has never fully fallen dormant.
Don’t miss my interview with the author, coming soon!
In the years since I had last seen her, there had not been a day when I had not thought of Guinevere. There was a moment of every day, be it as fleeting as a sparrow darting into a lord’s hall the out of the smoke hole, that I thought of Guinevere.
At those most often unexpected times, when I was not on my guard against it, she came on me like a stab wound. A wound which, though hidden from sight, never scabbed over.
And yet now, seeing Guinevere again after years spent holding her only in my secret heart, I was taken aback. Not merely to be under the same swathe of sky as her, to be breathing in the smoke from the same fires and shivering from the same damp air, but because she was not the same Guinevere I had brought with me through the years. Gone was the raven-haired girl with the knowing eyes and the wicked half-smile. In her place was a queen-in-waiting.
What I liked: Getting to hear Lancelot’s side of the story, the way Lancelot’s experiences as a child gave hints of the adult he would become, the way Merlin is characterised as someone dangerous and powerful rather than an old man and Guinevere as a girl who wants to be in charge of her own destiny. Each character is lovingly-imagined and realistic. The ending of the book brought tears to my eyes.
Even better if: More please?
How you could use it in your classroom: This wouldn’t be one I would use in the primary classroom but it could be used in secondary classrooms – perhaps in the form of extracts for classroom use, then as a recommendation to any budding Arthurian scholars. I know that it has certainly made me want to find out more, so I am off researching and reading other books set during this period!
About the Author
(Thank you to Bantam Press for my review copy and to Anne Cater for letting me be a part of this blog tour)
Don’t miss all the other stops on this blog tour!
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Giveaway ends on 15th June so don’t miss out!
Thanks for reading!