Finally Finished “Arthur”

Words almost fail me.

The briefness of Anierin’s tale shows yet again the necessity of “Pendragon” and “Grail”, whatever people say. And alas, Lawhead still does not have White’s strength of characterization. While I loved Arthur and Guinevere and Merlin and others, Mordred (Merdraut in Lawhead’s version) was flat, where in White’s version he was strangely sympathetic. I will not complain that things moved too fast; that is why Lawhead wrote his middle two books. But at any rate the short length was noticeable.

This is not a specific fault of the book, but I’d love for Lawhead to record what Lancelot did to restore his honor after the events of “Grail”. Pure curiosity if nothing else.

But enough of my quibbling. This was a brilliant, tragic, beautiful, almost perfect ending, an elegiac send-off for Arthur, his kingdom, and all the characters we love. Though I am not convinced it will be very good, my heart aches for “Avalon”. Surely – Surely! – the Summer Realm will not end like this! Merlin said Arthur would return. So be it!

The Pendragon Cycle is a work of genius, a fantasy masterpiece. One more book to go. Onward to “Avalon”!

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3 Responses to Finally Finished “Arthur”

  1. Malcolm — I read your review with interest. Thanks for saying all those nice things about my work. Since you have obviously invested quite a lot of time and thought in the series, it may interest you to peek a little behind the scenes as it were. You mention the odd scramble of narrative strands (the story not being chronological, for example), but what readers don’t understand — and I’m not sure I understand it myself — is what might be called the “politics of publishing,” and these can greatly influence the finished work.
    Pendragon Cycle was conceived as a 4-book project and originally begun that way. However, the first books were not all that well received, sadly, and so the publisher pulled the plug on the project when I was just beginning to write book 3, “Arthur.” What to do?
    For better or worse, I was forced to skip a whole book’s worth of material and force a conclusion that I hoped would not disappoint too serverely. But then, a year or so later, another publisher became interested in picking up the series and finishing the project. They liked the idea of extending the tale into areas not usually covered in Arthurian retellings — the Vandal Invasion, and the mystical Grail sequence.
    The publication of the final two books allowed me to recapture some little bit of the original vision I had for the series when I started the project — though, I had to live with the narrative as already established in the previous three books. Que sera sera. In any case, that is the reason for the somewhat eccentric tangle of tales in the Pendragon Cycle.
    All the best,
    S R Lawhead

    PS – The eye-bending character names are old Welsh.

    • Wow! I’m thrilled you read them (and glad my reviews were nice).

      I’ll respond more later, as I’m busy now. But cool!

    • And after a very, very, very long day at work, I’m back.

      However, the first books were not all that well received, sadly, and so the publisher pulled the plug on the project when I was just beginning to write book 3, “Arthur.” What to do?

      I’m genuinely shocked! Amazon reviews, at least, speak to the opposite. “Merlin” in particular has almost a full five star rating. And none of the books go below four.

      There definitely were very real, clear advantages to reading it in chronological order, and I’m glad I did. For example, because I read “Grail” first, Gwalchavad’s death had real force; I knew the character, and I liked him quite a bit. If I hadn’t read “Grail”, the only real heft in the scene would have been Cai’s death…which, don’t get me wrong, was terribly sad, but I’d imagine it would be hard to get worked up over the deaths of Gwalcmai and Gwalchavad if one hadn’t read “Grail” yet. In “Arthur” there just wasn’t enough time to develop either.

      Similarly, one of the most horrifying scenes, for me, in “Grail” was when the Dragon Ride find the bodies of the missing riders, including Bedwyr and Cai, hanging from a tree. The moment was very powerful; I actually gasped. If I had read part three of “Arthur” first, that would have lost all force.

      …Which is a long way for me to say that I’m very glad you wrote “Pendragon” and “Grail” (“Pendragon” was worth it to see some details about Gwenhyvhar and for that terrific climax). Give your publisher my thanks!

      (I was actually planning on e-mailing you eventually. I’m trying to start my own publishing house, and was going to start by putting together a collection of King Arthur stories. If you have any interest at all, feel free to e-mail me at noblesquire1@aol.com.)

      One last thought: If you ever get the time or inclination, consider writing about what Llenlleawg (did I spell his name right?) did in between “Grail” and part three of “Arthur” to restore his honor. I’d love to read that story.

      If you’re curious, check out superversivesf.com soon – after “Avalon” is finished I’m going to put up a comprehensive review of the Cycle.

      Whew, that ran longer than I thought. Thank you for writing the series! It really is transcendent.

      – Malcolm the Cynic

      Known in his other life as Anthony M.

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