Review: Arthur by Giles Kristian

Arthur by Giles Kristian

Timy reviews Arthur, the third book in The Arthurian Tales trilogy by Giles Kristian.

Review(s) of previous book(s): Lancelot, Camelot

An eARC was received by Transworld via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book
Series:Arthurian Tales #3
Genre:Historical Fiction
Publisher:Transworld
Date of Publishing:June 6, 2024
Trigger Warnings:blood, war, death, some graphic violence
Page count:372

Possible fit for The Sound of Madness Reading Challenge 2024 prompts:

Joker prompt that goes with anything: Now We Are Free

Anywhere Away From HereKiss My Ass
HandwrittenYou Are My Home
PsychoSummer Jam
AddictedNew Song
The MysticSay It
Queen of KingsThe Legend of Mother Swan
Accidentally in LoveThrough Glass
White FlagRoad to Joy
Sob StoryGive That Wolf a Banana
Always HalloweenKill Your Conscience
TherapyGhosts & Monsters
Low LifeChasing Stars
Book Blurb
Arthur by Giles Kristian

Years have passed since the clash of shieldwalls echoed across the land. The Saxons are now the lords of Britain. And yet the bards still sing of Arthur – ‘In our darkest time, when we need him most, shall he come again.’

Yet old Beran has no love of bards’ songs. Nor of people, unless they are paying him to steal or kill. He is a mercenary, in the employ of the cutthroat Nabor ap Nabor, and he has been ordered to murder a boy fleeing a burning city. No ordinary boy either. No, this boy is the son of King Constantine and the grandson of High King Ambrosius. And he could be the hope of Britain . . . if he lives.

Betraying his companions and returning to a world he thought he had left forever, Beran gives his word that he will take the boy to the one place that still holds out against the Camelot.

Crossing a hostile land, they will meet the runaway lovers, Tristan and Isolde. They will seek the help of Guivret, called the Little King, and the Saracen, Palamedes, who once rode beneath Arthur’s banner.

Hunted by Saxons, Nabor ap Nabor, and Queen Morgana, this unlikely band must fight for their lives and for each other. For if there’s to be any hope for Britain, Beran must deliver the boy to Camelot. But to do that, he must also face his own past . . .

Quote of the Book
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“It was a slaughter. Just two of their own had been killed, both men who had only recently joined them. It was usually the way of it. Last to join, first to die. Because the killing is easy, it’s the not being killed that takes practice.”

Song of the Book

I sure didn’t make my life easy when I picked a Goo Goo Dolls song for Lancelot, as I like to keep picking songs from the same band for each book in a series. I have no idea what I was thinking back then. Anyway. My choice for Arthur is Past Mistakes from their latest album.

Review

Arthur being published caught me by surprise early this year. I was looking for one of my older audiobooks back in January to try and get myself out of a two-month-long funk and I decided on Lancelot. And that’s when I learned about Arthur, so it seemed like fate (I still don’t believe in coincidences). It took me a bit longer to get to Arthur than I planned, but at least I got there in time for its release.

I admit I wasn’t sure what to expect from Arthur. Back when I first read Lancelot, I loved it. Camelot, not so much. And also a couple of years have passed since those books were released and a lot has changed. But I still kept an open mind as I had a good feeling. And to my absolute delight, I enjoyed the hell out of Arthur.

We are some years after Camelot ended. Saxons roam the lands and it’s getting hopeless to force them out of Britannia. Citys fall and but a few stand still against them. Queen Morgana is scheming to put her grandson on the High King’s throne to unite the lords. Which includes ordering the murder of Prince Erbin, the son of the late King Constantine. For some, he is the beacon of hope for a better future, for some he is but a hurdle on the way to power. For Beran, though, he is a window to the past and also a pain in the ass as he tries to get him safely to Camelot. And believe me, it’s harder than it sounds.

Arthur has a dual timeline, which I think worked really well for this story. On one hand, we follow the adventures of Beran, Erbin, and the friends they make along the way, on the other hand, we get a look into Arthur’s life from his boyhood until he became a man. Arthur can be read as a standalone, but if you read both Lancelot and Camelot, it certainly will enhance the whole experience. We learn how Arthur found out about his father, how he met Morgaine (later Queen Morgana), and how he fell in love with Guinevere. I especially recommend reading Lancelot as Arthur adds an awesome background to the story in that one.

In Arthur, we get to know a man who is not without flaws, who is vulnerable, and by no means perfect. In Kristian’s interpretation, he is a human being, simple as that. With dreams and passions as anyone else, even if he didn’t choose the life that was given to him. And yet he still rose to the role of a legend. Which is probably the heaviest burden of them all.

Beran and Erbin are surrounded by a host of side characters, all of them well rounded out. There is Guivret, the Little King who mostly cares only for his own comfort, Palamedes the Saracen who works for him and takes a liking to the boy, and the most interesting of them all, Tristan and Isolde. Yes, the fabled couple whose story we all know. Kristian took some liberties here (as he did with most of the legends he was inspired by, but honestly I think it worked out magnificently), but their inclusion in the first place brings a nice parallel to the relationship between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot. And provide an opportunity for reflection. I loved it. And even though I knew how it must end, I still kept rooting for a different outcome.

I honestly don’t have much to complain about, maybe I wanted a bit more emotions from Beran regarding Iselle, but honestly, this book was just so good, that I kept turning the pages, especially toward the end. I felt the tension building both in the book and in myself, and that’s the best kind of thrill you can have as a reader. When you don’t know what’s going to happen, where things can go both ways and you have no control over any of it.

I can’t express how happy I am that Kristian decided to return to the world of The Arthurian Tales and bring it up to a trilogy. I absolutely had no idea I needed this closure, and yet here we are. Arthur brought this emotional roller coaster ride I never saw coming, to a perfect end, and I enjoyed it immensely. If you like historical fiction novels or if you want to read a different kind of Arthur story, then you definitely should pick up a copy!

Our Judgement
Praise Their Name - 5 crowns

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