Best Books on the Legend of King Arthur
My favourite books on Arthur, King of Britain
I've always been fascinated by Arthur, who was the man who inspired such a long-lasting legend?
You've heard of the chivalrous knights, of many-towered Camelot, of shining gallantry and of bloody battles beneath the pageantry and pomp. You also know the tales of thwarted love, of deception, and of betrayal. The startling wizard, the faithful friend and the search for the Holy Grail. But was there ever a real Arthur? I believe there was.
I met Arthur when I was 9, and I still avidly read about the legend. These are my favourite books, simply the best books on Arthur, King of Britain
The search for Arthur seized my dreams when The Boy's King Arthur Sir Thomas Malory's History of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table Edited for Boys By Sidney Lanier fell into my hands. I was 9 years old and ensorcelled!
The mysteries of that far away mist-shrouded land held me captivated and and motivated my studies for almost 40 years.
Since then I must have read every new novel, (many good, many more bad, but most of them predictably indifferent) and I'm left with my personal favourites.
Sword at Sunset - Rosemary Sutcliff
The late Rosemary Sutcliff wrote historical novels, wonderful stirring novels not fantasy, and she gave us a painstaking and imaginative reconstruction of the desolate time when the Legions marched away from Britain forever.
Arthur, a war chief, tells his own story of the battles to hold back the barbaric Saxon hordes.
If there were ever a 'real' Arthur, this is how it must have been. The characters are real living (all too human), passionate people who will make a home in your heart.
A classic, highly readable and highly recommended novel.
The Mists of Avalon
You must have read this classic from the pen of Marian Zimmer Bradley by now.
If you haven't, this interpretation of Arthur told from the perspective of powerful women characters can be summed up in one word - masterpiece. I'll say that twice - masterpiece.
The focus, and the protagonist of this book is not Arthur, but Morgaine. We have met her in earlier tales as the enemy of Arthur, but in this book she is his sister and a priestess of Avalon.
The book also paints deep portraits of the other women around Arthur -- his mother, Igraine, his wife Gwenhyfar, Morgause, queen of Lothian, and Vivienne, Lady of the Lake.
Do you have the Mists of Avalon?
This is the crowning glory of the works of Marian Zimmer Bradley., it's engaging, spellbinding, moving, and beautifully written. A classic story of Arthurian times
Have you read Mists of Avalon?
Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy
The story of Merlin, the magical wise man who mentored Arthur.
The Merlin Trilogy is a classic of the Arthurian genre. Mary Stewart presents her fantastical but realistic character, Merlin, in an spellbinding portrayal. Memorable and awe inspiring. I can't recommend them highly enough.
The books are The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment.
You'll be entranced and engrossed by this magical story of Merlin, Arthur's wizard mentor.
Merlin has been portrayed many times, but Stewart's vision is unique. A classic. I just love this interpretation, utterly believable and a great yarn as well.
I revelled in reading once more Stewart's spectacular story of Merlin. If you haven't read these then you're in for a wonderful treat!
If only I could give more than 5 stars!f only there were more writers to tell tales as grand as these!
Mary Stewart - Three books bundled together
The three novels in one package. Spoil yourself!
Have you read Mary Stewart's Merlin?
The Once and Future King
This book is strangely hard to describe. It's amusing, a comedy with some hysterical twists and at the same time an expose of the brutality of violence, domination and dictatorship. Witty, ironic, pacifistic, perceptive and superbly crafted.
Yet another dimension to the re-telling of Arthurian legend and in one word - whimsical
We see Arthur as a political innovator, a great king who believes in governing with justice.
The Pendragon Cycle
A breathtaking work by acclaimed author Stephen R. Lawhead.
I'm always looking for tales of the Matter of Britain and, while there are great numbers out there, I'm hard to please. Can you recommend a good one? I want a good, enthralling story, I love historical accuracy (as far as possible), but I also love fantasy and if some basis of historical fact is laid down for a fantasy flight, I am more than eager to read.
But the author must be able to write well, I've seen too many that fall down with poor structure and even poorer English. Stephen R.Lawhead is a great storyteller, he has studied and loves his subject and he can write.
In his trilogy, the Pendragon Cycle, the emphasis is not on Arthur, for the story and the great events that shaped the world are placed fairly and squarely in the hands of Merlin.
Five Books in the Pendragon Cycle
There's a fifth book in the series as well. This final is the familiar tale of Arthur transformed - and brought to its unfamiliar conclusion
Bernard Cornwell - a thrilling series
I really like Cornwell's depiction. It's hard hitting and shouts of the truth. There are a lot of battle accounts in these books, details of strategy and details of the bloody fighting. I'm not usually happy with battle scenes but Cornwell explains the overall plan and, besides, the stories themselves are so good I can overlook any gore.
Cornwell's Arthur, a fierce man, in a rousing and bloody tale of politics and the horror of war
Arthurian Legends and Celtic Tradition
For the serious reader, a classic work by Jean Markale, a man part Breton, part-Irish, and all Celt.
Markale's grandmother, close to the forest of BrocÃ©liande, told the boy the ancient strange legends, and he subsequently devoted forty years to studying and teaching the history of the Celtic peoples.
Markale is the author of many books about the civilisation of the Celts, particularly on the place of women in the Celtic world.
Every student of mythology has at least one Markale on the shelf. A brilliant man, and King of the Celts is a brilliant book.
The Celtic Heritage
The Celtic heritage has a strongly formative power on our personal and moral concepts
Classics on King Arthur
The core myths of the Celtic peoples centre on the great cycle of stories based on the life and exploits of King Arthur.
These legends link Arthur to a common poetic idea of Britain as a kind of paradise of the West, with a primeval unspoiled past. Together they add up to the greatest theme in the literature of the British Isles.
I've listed here what I call my 'reference' books on Arthur.
Discover the 'real' King Arthur
by Geoffrey Ashe
Who was Arthur? Ashe believes he has found the real historical man. A well written and compelling insight into myth and reality and a fascinating look at life in the turbulent times of the Saxon Tide.
Ashe writes with passion, and he understands a great deal about history. In this book he brings us the facts behind the legend of King Arthur and arrives at his conclusion of Arthur's identity.
A powerful read and as gripping as any good detective novel.
Do I agree with his conclusions? I'm not quite sure ..
This book isn't easy to get but there are some Sellers on Amazon who stock it. It's a fascinating work and I keep picking up my copy to look at something in it again.
Where the popular idea of chivalry began
What's your opinion on King Arthur?
Was there a real Arthur?
Do you recommend another book on King Arthur? Got a favourite?
© 2008 Susanna Duffy