Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review: King Arthur: Dragon's Child by M.K.Hume

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Headline, 2009

What lies beneath the legend?

"The making of a legend is a form of poetry, my friend, an art that is an extension of pure gossip, especially when stories are passed form one mouth into another's ear. If we could live on and on through the ages, I doubt we'd recognise ourselves in the stories that will be woven around us".

So speaks Myrddion Merlinus to Artorex in Dragon's Child and how right he is. From the magical world of a fantasy Isle of Avalon to the knights and ladies of a medieval Camelot , tales of the legendary Arthur have been capturing the hearts and minds of people for centuries.

M K Hume takes the legend and gives it a structure based on reality and reason creating a young man struggling to accept the destiny that is his by birthright in a violent and bloody age.

She sets her book in the period of British history when the Roman Empire has crumbled and the legions have long deserted the Isles........when Uther Pendragon, the High King of Britain is nearing death. As the tyrant falters, his kingdom is being torn apart by the squabbling of minor kings who jostle for the throne.

Of unknown parentage, Artorex grows up as the foster son of Lord Ector and his Roman wife, Livinia. One day,  three influential men arrive at the villa and arrange for Artorex to be taught the martial skills of the warrior: blade and shield, horse and fire, pain and bravery.
When they return, years later, Artorex is not only trained in the arts of battle, he is also a married man. The country is in desperate straits, for the great towns of the west are falling to the menace of the Saxon hordes.
In spite of Uther's enmity, Artorex becomes a war chieftain, winning many battles and earning the trust of his warriors.

I loved M K Hume's writing style and became totally engrossed in her imaginative and fresh perspective of this well known subject.. At first I had to remind myself that this was Arthur I was reading about and then really enjoyed discovering well known characters hiding within unfamiliar names. Like Artorex's half-brother Caius ( Sir Kay) and the boy in Uther's kitchen, Perce ( Percival) who, like all the characters, become more real than their more fanciful legendary selves and so much easier to relate to. Bloody battles and intrigue provide plenty of excitement but there are also some gentler passages ( I even shed a few tears a one point) and it all adds up to wonderful historical fiction.

Dragon's Child is the first book of the King Arthur trilogy and covers Artorex's childhood and early adulthood up to the time when he discovers Uther's crown and sword and is crowned High King. The other two books are:
King Arthur: Warrior of the West
King Arthur: The Bloody Cup.

I look forward to reading them both.

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