Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Book Review: Myths & Legends: King Arthur by Daniel Mersey

Pros: summarizes several medieval and celtic myths, theories of who Arthur may have been historically, lots of illustrations

Cons: focus is squarely on Arthur, which leaves out some of the stories

Part of Osprey Adventure’s Myths and Legends series, this book chronicles the best known stories of King Arthur, including the various theories regarding the historical personage the tales are based on.

The book is split into three parts: the Medieval Arthur, the Celtic Arthur and the Historical Arthur.  The first two sections include an overview and then detailed summaries of the most important of the stories from those storytelling traditions.  They are well told and include numerous stories I’ve never heard of (and I had to read a number of Arthurian romances in University).  The historical segment is equally interesting, and includes the argument that Arthur was merely an invention and not based on a historical figure (or an amalgamation of historical figures) at all.  There’s also a list of further reading and watching for those who want more, though their fiction list is somewhat limited.

The book has lots of colour illustrations, including several two-page spreads.  Some of the artwork was produced for this book and illustrated by Alan Lathwell.  

There’s such a large amount of material on Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table that it’s impossible to cover it all.  The summarized works were ones that focused on Arthur.  Many stories that focused on other knights were mentioned in passing while others weren’t mentioned at all.  

Ultimately it’s a very readable book for those interested in learning more about King Arthur.  If you want a comprehensive listing of all the works King Arthur and/or his knights appear in this is a good starting point but isn’t going to give you everything.  It is however, interesting and able to point you in directions you may not have been aware of.

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