After reading Lancelot, I had high hopes for Camelot. But did it live up to the high standards of its father?
Short answer – yes, just.
Long answer below.
The book is set about a decade after the final battle that ends Lancelot/ Lancelot. It features many of the same people, has the same prose that is just the right side of purple, and has the same biting action sequences. It chronicles the life of Lancelot’s son as he is ripped from the sanctuary of a secluded monastery and thrust into a world full of blood, rage and love.*
There is a depth and colour to the world which is vivid and meticulous but occasionally overwhelming. (In Lancelot there were too many trees; in Camelot, birds. They were everywhere. Stands to reason given a lot of action was in a marsh but even so…)
There are parallels to its predecessor: a love interest, a quest (a cauldron this time, not a sword), a boy coming of age.
There is tragedy, senseless loss, depictions of the brutal life of those times, moments of loyalty and devious trickery (Take a bow, Merlin.)
There is the same vast array of characters and places with unsayable names.
(Another shout out to the proofreaders who must have been put through the red-line wringer by their spellcheck machinery.)
All in all, it is a worthy follow up to its predecessor. (In his Author’s Notes, Giles Kristian calls it a companion novel rather than a sequel.)
But, it falls just short of the high standards of Lancelot. This doesn’t make it a bad book. Not by any means. It is worth reading, preferably directly after Lancelot so the events of that book which are referenced in Camelot are still fresh. If there are so many parallels between the two, why is there a discrepancy?
At first, I thought it was the action sequences. They are good, but are a shade slower, not quite as bright. I wondered if that was deliberately done to reflect the age of many of the warriors. But ultimately, they are not the reason this book is not quite the equal of its father.
It’s the protagonist.
Lancelot burned. You could feel it in him from the moment he stepped onto the page. Though his devotion to his hawk, his adoration of Pelleas and his rivalry with Melwas. To his love for Arthur and, of course, Guinevere, who consumed his dreams and days and, ultimately, his life and death. Lancelot’s ferocious personality drove the book forwards to its bloody conclusion. He was a lord of war and a lord of the page.
Galahad was forever in his father’s shadow. Arguably, he makes a longer, harder journey that his father: from his time as a monk to his role as a fearsome warrior on the vulnerable right-hand side of the shield-wall. But he didn’t have the passionate depths of his father and that, I think, is where the book doesn’t shine as much.
That said, I’ll repeat myself:
Camelot. Is. Not. A. Bad. Book.
But Lancelot is better.
Buy both. Read both. You’ll enjoy them.
*I don’t see the point of giving you a blow by blow account of the plot. Read the book if you want that. Mr Kristian tells the story much better than I do…
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