King Arthur, Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot did not really exist, but their names conjure up a romantic image of gallant knights in shining armour, elegant ladies in medieval castles, heroic quests for the Holy Grail in a world of honour and romance, and the court of Camelot at the centre of a royal and mystical Britain.
The legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table
Countless writers, poets, and artists not to mention film-makers and now, webmasters have been inspired by the life and times of King Arthur. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table never existed in real life. In a masterpiece of medieval prose he defined — in latin — the earliest coherent version of the Arthurian legend. He also gave the world an extraordinary and evocative tale that has caught the imagination of creative minds through the generations.
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This is another example of Lees trying too hard to reconcile the authentic history and the romances. The descriptions of battle are poetic rather than realistic: blood-soaked ground, shining blades etc. I guess this might just be Cadfan, but I found it did not move me. These novels for me captures the spirit of the British Dark Ages politics better than any other. The level of organisation, the civil wars between the British states, the struggle for succession on the death of a king, the importance of dynastic marriages, and the negotiations between Briton and Saxon are all convincingly portrayed.
The description of battle is detailed, engrossing, and, from what I've read elsewhere, realistic.
There is some humour. Merlin in particular is quite a character. There is no feeling of inevitability about the plot.
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Partly this is because Cornwell has invented new story lines rather than just selecting from the old ones. But also one feels the characters to be free agents, not being guided by the hand of fate which hovers ponderously in some novels.
Arthur, Derfel, and many other characters are likeable and believable, but also people the reader could look up to. I guess I am just old fashioned, but it pleases me to follow the lives of such characters. Other characters are too villanous to be believable, but they are Derfel's personal enemies so perhaps we can't expect an unbiassed portrait.
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Mordred is not Arthur's son. He is Arthur's half-nephew, and is the rightful heir to the throne of Dumnonia. This is more in line with the old Welsh traditions and also made for a better plot I thought. There is a supernatural element which had an ambiguous status i. This I did not mind except that in the last book it becomes too overt for my liking and almost took the novel into the realm of historical fantasy.
Paganism druids, human sacrifice etc. The one thing Gildas writing probably at most a generation after Arthur did not criticize the rulers of his day for was paganism.
The Legend of King Arthur – fact or fiction?
Cornwell does not make use of the known or at least traditional history and genealogies of the time. He makes no mention of Ambrosius or Vortigern, who were surely the most important Britons of the time preceding Arthur although he does mention Cunedda in passing.
There is no mention of the Roman Syagrius in Gaul, even though he would have been in power at the time Arthur was supposed to have been there. The geographical extent of the British kingdoms do not correspond to what we know.