A great book and a novel twist on the Arthurian legend.
The story stretches from Lancelot’s torrid early childhood, through the relative safety of his early teens and a blossoming love that will shape his life, to his role as ‘lord of war’ and his part in both Arthur’s and Briton’s fate. Underlying the whole book is the unchanging devotion of a young boy.
There’s no need to summarise the plot more than that, you can read the book for that. So, what did I think?
• The prose is beautiful.
• The battles and duels are excruciatingly good.
• The ‘training montage’ of his childhood and his relationship with his mentor are very well done. (In particular what Lancelot does for the man at the end of Pelleas’s life.)
• The background, myths, history and omens are woven into the text exceedingly well.
• Similarly, the technical elements of the world are present but don’t dominate.
• There is a huge cast of well-rounded characters to love, hate and mourn.
• There is frustrated love and impotent rage; vengeance, sacrifice and betrayal.
• Some people get their comeuppance, others, maddeningly, do not. Still more remain devious and obtuse throughout.
All in all, I liked it a lot.
That said, there are a few minor issues.
The first is the pace. It ranges from blindingly fast in some sections to slow in others. Some ebb and flow is good, but the contrast is occasionally too much.
One reason for this is the prose – as stunning as it is, it can take up too much space e.g. when describing nature. Up to a point, a tree is a tree. Move on.
Also relating to the pace is the sentence structure. On the whole, it is used well and varies considerably. From punchy fragments. To longer sentences that have minimum punctuation and stretch on and on and on but are difficult to follow until the next full stop heaves into sight.
One last gripe – the section just past the halfway mark. It felt as if people were being moved around for the final, relentless push to the last battle. Lancelot’s childhood is a little guilty of this prolonged scene setting, too. I didn’t mind this as much. Why? Because, it seethes with the bubbling emotions between the teenagers on an island which I’m not even going to attempt to spell.
(Shout out to the proofreader, by the way. Keeping track of the spellings of the names in the book cannot have been easy.)
I want to stress, though, that these gripes are minor. Once all the characters have been built and shuffled into place, when Lancelot’s old enemies unite with his new ones, and Guinevere reenters his life, the book builds relentlessly to one inescapable conclusion: ruin.
All in all, Lancelot is dauntingly good.
I’ve already pre-ordered the next in the series and have an eye on the rest of the author’s novels.
Not to mention all the books mentioned in the back matter…
Too many books, too little time.
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