Le Morte D’Arthur is the classic text, relating the rape of Igraine, the birth of Arthur, the sword and the stone, the wedding to Guenever, and the many feats of the knights. A great companion is The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, John Steinbeck’s retelling of Malory’s text.
The Once and Future King is the version of the Arthurian saga most readers know as it inspired the Broadway musical Camelot. The first book, “The Sword in the Stone,” relates Merlyn’s tutoring of a young Wart. The remaining books recount Arthur’s seduction by his half-sister, describe the creation of the Round Table, introduce Lancelot and Guinevere, and reveal the dark presence of Mordred. As Arthur’s tragedy unfolds, White’s story becomes darker and his characters more complex.
Guenevere: Queen of the Summer Country, Rosalind Miles conceives a Camelot ruled by queens where goddess worship reigns. In the lushly beautiful Summer Country, Guenevere lives a tranquil life—until her mother is killed and the kingdom teeters on the edge of destruction. Arthur offers marriage to unite their two lands, leaving Guenevere free to reign as Queen. However, this union brings Morgause, Morgan, and Merlin into Guenevere’s world, and all three will wreak havoc on Camelot.
The Winter King is a darkly raw tale of the inner political workings of Arthur’s world. Here, Arthur is a complex and flawed figure, surrounded by players with dangerous motivations—Lancelot is particularly loathsome. In another twist, Arthur is in service to King Mordred. (My favorite novel portraying a flawed Arthur is Philip Reeve's Here Lies Arthur.)
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