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Not what I expected.

Posted : 18 years ago on 16 June 2006 10:37

The Sword in the Stone: Ornithology disguised as fantasy.

The Wart is a young orphan boy who lives in the castle of Sir Ector, his foster father. The son of the latter, Kay, is his best friend and model, for one day he will be Sir Kay, the master of the estate.

One day, they decide to go hawking together on the edge of the Forest Sauvage, but they're inexperienced and Cully the hawk flies away. They have no choice but to enter the foreboding woods and go after it. And soon the Wart gets lost. In the forest, he meets with King Pellinore, whose Quest is to catch the Beast Glatisant, and later with Merlyn the Enchanter, who brings him back to the castle and becomes his tutor.

As the Wart gets turned successively into a fish, a merlin, an ant, yet several other species of birds and finally a badger to add to his education, the novel itself sort of turns into a book of natural science, more than an actual fantasy, and not much else happens. The author's tendency to address to the reader is somewhat annoying too, and in general The Sword in the Stone far from lived up to my expectations. Not to mention that you have to wait until the fifth to last page for the Wart to finally remove the actual sword from the stone.

The Witch in the Wood (also sometimes called The Queen of Air and Darkness): Funny with boring interludes.

Young Arthur is now King of England, but finds himself in times of great political unrest. Wondering, and not understanding, why people wage war on each other, he wants to create an order of chivalry where good deeds would be rewarded.

In the meantine four boys, Gawaine, Agravaine, Gaheris and Gareth, are up to some mischief to get their mother's attention. But Queen Morgause of the Outer Ilses, who's also a witch, is too eager on avenging her father's death and on having Uther Pendragon's heir pay for her mother's miserable life.

The pace of this book is very irregular, and I found the author's numerous references to his own times (the late 1930's) useless and rather annoying. However, I enjoyed some chapters a lot, especially the hilarious one where King Pellinore is in love and depressed, and Sir Palomides and Sir Grummore desguise as the Questing Beast to cheer him up, to finally have the Beast fall in love with them.

The Ill-Made Knight: Unexpectedly passionating.

The Ill-Made Knight tells the story of the life of Sir Lancelot, an ugly young man, fervent admirer of King Arthur, who comes to Camelot to become a Knight of the Round Table.

It won't be long until he and Arthur's Queen, Guenever, fall in love with each other. And soon Sir Lancelot is tormented by a devastating inner struggle. He is thoroughly ashamed of this love, which he considers a sin. So for his redemption, he swears to become the best knight in the world.

As for King Arthur, his knights have been busy restoring peace in all Europe, but soon the situation gets out of hand again, and he has to find something to keep them from fighting each other. He'll send them on a quest for the Holy Grail.

I was quite surprised by this book, which I enjoyed much more than the previous two. There's action at last, the characters are better defined, the story more gripping. I wonder what the last two have in store for me.

The Candle in the Wind: Enthralling and tragic.

This is the fourth book in The Once and Future King pentalogy (after The Sword in the Stone, The Witch in the Wood and The Ill-Made Knight, and before The Book of Merlyn).

This volume tells the story of a Mordred on the onset of madness, of his attempts to overthrow his own father King Arthur out of thirst for power, and hatred for trying to drown him as a baby, by exposing Lancelot and Guenever's treason.

As the story flows, Arthur slowly witnesses the fall of the Round Table, sees the work of a lifetime, his ideal of Justice, and everything he has ever fought for, collapse.

The Candle in the Wind is an enthralling tragedy, ending in a wonderful speech against war, against all wars, which seem to rise again despite humanity's innumerable attempts to eradicate them. I read it avidly.

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