Book Review: Camelot, Giles Kristian
Fiction: Camelot, Giles Kristian
Is it fair for a reviewer to just say, “Wow!” and then move on to books that possibly need more support? No? I suppose I would not be fulfilling my responsibility to the blog tour organizer Anne Cater of Random Things, the author Giles Kristian, or the publisher Bantam Press, and seeing as they were kind enough to supply me with a copy of the book to review, I should actually do that.
Camelot is the second Arthurian legend reimagined by author Giles Kristian. Lancelot was the first. I can safely say that this can be read as a standalone novel, but it definitely has me eager to go back and read the first one. Camelot tells the story of Lancelot’s son, Galahad.
Some ten years after the fall of Arthur and Lancelot, Saxons are riding across Britain. A few pockets of resistance hold out, but they are small, divided, and dispirited. Merlin has not been seen in a decade. Morgana rules in Camelot. And on a quiet island in the marshes of Avalon, a young man nears the day when he will take his orders and join the monks as a brother in their monastery.
Galahad, though, is no ordinary novitiate. Left at the monastery ten years before, he has forgotten much of his childhood. Still, when a need arises, Galahad defies orders and leaves the island to fulfill an errand for the brothers. While out, he sees the devastation being wrought by the Saxons. He would fall victim to their violence as well but for the timely intervention of Iselle, a young woman who kills the scouting party that captured him.
Returning to the monastery, Galahad is punished for his disobedience. But soon new concerns arise. A group of men, led by the renowned knight Gawain, arrives, and they mean to take Galahad with them.
So begins an adventure that has all the makings of an epic. Author Kristian uses a keen sense for detail to bring a vividness to the subsequent battle scenes, the deprivations and horrors faced by the populace, the resilience of people to find comfort in the midst of affliction, and the growing attraction between Galahad and Iselle.
Many children growing up in the US (and I presume other English-speaking countries) will have encountered the Arthurian legends in their exploration of fantasy. My wife adored The Once and Future King. The delightful thing about legends, though, is that they can be revisited and explored differently by different authors and different generations. Kristian takes full advantage of this, creating both characters and events that are not part of the Arthurian canon but are very effective in telling a rousing story that I could barely put down.
Weaving the old with the new, familiar with the invented, Giles Kristian takes an ancient story and creates a very compelling modern fantasy. In many ways it reminded me of what Madeline Miller is doing with Greek legends, what Katherine Arden is doing with Russian stories, and what Naomi Novick is doing with Polish folk tales. The result is a breathtaking adventure that grabs the reader early and holds tightly to that reader for chapter after chapter.
Other authors and their books we’ve loved that do similar things with myths, legends, and folktales:
Katherine Arden: The Bear and the Nightingale and The Winter of the Witch
Linnea Hartsuyker: The Sea Queen
Madeline Miller: Song of Achilles and Circe
Naomi Novik: Uprooted and Spinning Silver
I hope you’ll forgive the admittedly Eurocentric nature of the above list. If you know of similar reimaginings of Asian, African, or North/South American myths and legends, please let us know in the comments. We would love to read and review them as well. Thank you.
Book Review: Camelot, Giles Kristian
One thought on “Blog Tour: Camelot, Giles Kristian”
Thanks so much for the blog tour support David xx