Arthur the King

by Allan Massie

Reviewed by Coral


This is the story of Arthur the boy, raised in secret by Merlin, who would one day pull the sword from the stone and become England's king.

I really enjoyed the style of writing the author used in this book, writing as a narrative in the voice of Medieval astrologer Michael Scott to a German Prince. The story was well paced and interesting, for a bit. Some of Arthur's pre-King adventures I could have done without, some went on longer than necessary or had no point.

The main problem I had with this book is pretty evident from the cover: Arthur did not live in the time of Knights and suits of armor. As I've said before, Arthur is supposed to have lived in the time after Rome deserted Britain in the 400s CE, not in the Middle Ages. For awhile, I thought the cover was a fluke, because in the early pages in certainly sounded like Rome had just pulled its troops out of Britain or had a few generations earlier. But, at around the 100 page mark, I realized how wrong I was. There was mentions of King Richard the Lion-Heart being already alive, which is so wrong, considering he was born something like 700 years after the supposed time of Arthur. I will admit to the fact I may has misread, and maybe it was in the narrator's time that King Richard was being discussed. But, there was also mentions of Arthur knighting several of his men, and this wasn't exactly a common practice at the time he was supposed to have lived.

I tried to forgive the author this mistake - it's one a lot of people have made and continue to make - but I couldn't forgive him for the bit about men seeking pleasure with other men burning on Judgment Day and suffering eternal torment. Now I know people believe that; I'm not one of them. I believe that no religion should teach hatred and intolerance to any person of this earth. The one thing I will never forgive or overlook is bigotry. I don't know what the author feels towards this subject (earlier in the book he mentions a Marcus who had a man Lycus as a lover, and I didn't sense anything negative in the way he spoke about them), but I feel that unless prejudice was a central part of his book, those lines didn't need to be included. They certainly soured me to the book.

Grade: F