Review: The Arthur Trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland

The Seeing Stone At the Crossing Places King of the Middle March
I very quickly read through this trilogy, which I suppose shows how much I enjoyed reading it! I’m a big Arthurian myth geek, ever since I took an awesome class on the subject two springs ago. Kevin Crossley-Holland’s Arthur trilogy incorporates nearly all the old stories I read in that class and adds in a new one, about a reborn Arthur living in the time of the Christian crusades. I love that the old stories are updated a little bit (they certainly make more sense in these books than they did in the originals), and that they form a coherent line of action. I love too that the new Arthur is a little bit different than the original, and that though he watches King Arthur’s story, and though that story mirrors his own just a bit, the new Arthur makes his own destiny and his own story.

Arthur is generally so much better than everyone else around him, but that he doesn’t lord it over people and nor does it make him a saint. He’s a kid who is trying to figure out who he is, what he believes, and what he wants to do with his life. And, yeah, he’s the freakin’ king who was and will be again– shouldn’t he be a litter bit better than everyone else, anyway? But I liked that he sees goodness in people as well as the bad bits, and that he sees badness in himself a little bit, too. It makes him seem more human and less like a saintly ruler, you know? (The King Arthur in his seeing stone was a bit more human than in the original tales, as well. It was a nice change.)

The other characters were maybe not as lovable as Arthur was, but they were fully fleshed out and interesting in their own right. I especially liked Lord Stephen, the…what was he? The lord of the area where Arthur lived? I think that’s it. Anyway, I probably liked him best of all the secondary characters because he was a bit like Arthur in that he was more good than bad. Though, I suppose it was easy for the good-er characters to shine because they were surrounded by bad people– or at least people who did bad things.

The plots of the books themselves were good, though I think in the second book Arthur’s story was a little bit trampled by King Arthur’s story in the seeing stone. The third book was very exciting (and bloody), though of course any book set during a crusade is sure to get the blood boiling even if one finds crusades disgusting things. I think I like the first book’s plot best, just because I like that whole getting-to-know-you-thing. It was nice seeing what life was like in 1199/1200 ; I don’t think I’ve read a lot of books set in that specific time period.

What else? The writing! The writing was lovely. It felt like an old-fashioned fairy tale, almost, but with modern contractions and grammar and things.

If you have any interest at all in the Arthurian legend or historical fiction, get these books. I’ve been shoving them onto all my other medieval studies friends and I’d love to be able to squeal about them with you, too!

Under this jump I’ve put the header about each book that normally goes at the top of my reviews. Click the thingy if you want to check them out! (If you’re reading this in a feedreader, I think it should show the whole post automatically.)

Book #1: The Seeing Stone

Publication: Scholastic Paperbacks (September 1, 2002), Paperback, 342pp / ISBN 0439263271
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy (a little), YA
Rating:
Find @ Amazon or IndieBound
Challenges: Arthurian Challenge 2009-2010 (#2)
Read: October 2009
Source: BookMooch

Summary from Amazon:

It is 1199 and young Arthur de Caldicot is waiting impatiently to grow up and become a knight. One day his father’s friend Merlin gives him a shining piece of obsidian and his life becomes entwined with that of his namesake, the Arthur whose story he sees unfold in the stone. In this many-layered novel, King Arthur is seen as a mysterious presence influencing not just one time and place, but many.

Book #2: At the Crossing Places

Publication: Arthur A. Levine Books, Hardcover, 416pp / ISBN 9780439265980
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy (a little), YA
Rating:
Find @ Amazon or IndieBound
Challenges: Arthurian Challenge 2009-2010 (#3)
Read: October 2009
Source: Bought

Summary from Amazon:

Arthur de Caldicot arrives at Holt to be squire to Lord Stephen and accompany him on crusade. It is an exciting and bewildering time for him as he finds a warhorse, is fitted with armour, and improves his fighting skills. He dreads a confrontation with his blood-father, the violent Sir William, and dreams of finding his true mother; he discovers girls – including the vivacious Winnie de Verdon whom he rescues from burning to death; he has to deal with the aftermath of a murder; he sees the sea for the first time, sails to France and finally takes the Cross. And meanwhile these events are reflected in his seeing stone, in stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Book #3: King of the Middle March

Publication: Arthur A. Levine Books, Hardcover, 409pp / ISBN 9780439266000
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy (a little), YA
Rating:
Find @ Amazon or IndieBound
Challenges: Arthurian Challenge 2009-2010 (#4)
Read: October 2009
Source: Library

Summary from Amazon:

Arthur de Caldicot waits eagerly in Venice for the start of the Fourth Crusade. But it’s now when Arthur’s future should be clearest that he feels the most doubt. Jealousies and greed rive the Crusade, leading him to question its true mission. Back in England, his engagement to Winnie remains uncertain, while his search for his birth mother has been stymied by his vicious father. And his seeing stone shows him the last days of King Arthur’s court–a great dream destroyed, but also a glorious legend rising from the ruins. Likewise in this book, Arthur becomes a man worthy of his kingly name.

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8 Comments

    • I haven’t read Mary Stewart’s Arthurian series, but I HAVE checked out The Crystal Cave from the library. I’ve read about 3 pages, and at first glance it does seem very like the Crossley-Holland books, in writing style if nothing else.

  1. Harrison Weidner

    I am in the 5th grade and my assignment is to read a book of “Historical Fiction.” This series looks very interesting to me but my teacher says that it is not historical fiction. What do you think?

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