This thrilling new book from Walker Studio was published in November. The definitive retelling of the Arthurian legends by Kevin Crossley-Holland with glorious illustrations on every page by Chris Riddell. An absolute must on any Christmas list!
How to tell the stories of King Arthur? What of the stories to tell? Most people will know the story of the sword in the stone, of how Arthur received the sword Excalibur and of his death – but what about the stories in between? There doesn’t seem to be an easy narrative path. Indeed, Arthur is not necessarily a main character for these are the stories about individual knights who made up the Company of the Round Table. They are stories full of tensions, magic, monsters, violence, love and loyalties. They are not children’s stories – though children will always thrill to the excitement of each quest without worrying about the more complicated emotions involved. Indeed, there are excellent retellings that are aimed at a younger audience. Kevin Crossley-Holland, however, takes the medieval originals in all their complicated splendour and retells them with his poet’s ear for language, capturing the character of that chivalric past while being contemporary and immediate. He also organises the stories to follow a consistent path, each quest reflecting the ideals of the Round Table; ideals that have to be proved through trials which may fail for the protagonists are fallible. In this way he is able to include the narrative of the Fisher King – a story that resonates powerfully today. The author makes sure we meet real people with real emotions, passions, hopes and fears. Perhaps, this is the reason the Arthurian cycle has such a powerful hold on the imagination; this is not a world peopled by gods.