Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Book Review: Myths & Legends: Knights of the Round Table by Daniel Mersey

Pros: quick summaries of notable stories, timeline of when stories were written, interesting text boxes with additional information, mentions alternate spellings/versions

Cons: as mentioned in the introduction there are too many knights and stories to cover them all

As with the other books in Osprey’s Myths and Legends series, this is a great introduction if you’re interested in Arthurian Legends.  The author, Daniel Mersey, wrote a volume on King Arthur, and this volume on the knights is meant to accompany it in fleshing out the legends.  

The book has entertaining synopses of several of the earliest legends about Arthur’s knights, told by Chretien de Troyes and his contemporaries in the late 12th Century.  There are several stories about Lancelot and Gawain, as well as Tristan and Isolde, Yvain, Erec, Balin and Beaumains.

If you don’t know much about the knights, this is a fantastic introduction, with text boxes breaking up the stories that have added information regarding where different characters were popular, alternate spellings, which ones potentially came first, etc.  The literary timeline’s also great, showing when the different stories were written.

It’s an attractive edition with reprints of several images that accompanied older editions of the stories as well as new illustrations by Alan Lathwell.

Of course, with such a slim volume a lot is going to be left out.  The author mentions that in his introduction and includes a supplementary reading and watching list (including preferred translations for the texts) for those who want to learn more.

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