Monday, August 27, 2012

5 unlikely tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

List by Danielle

"It is I, Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, from the castle of Camelot. King of the Britons, defeater of the Saxons, Sovereign of all England!"

"Pull the other one!"


I've been reading Sarah Zettel's Camelot series of late - four historical fantasy romances starring Gawain and his brothers, one book per knightly brother - and took a look to see what else we've got on the Arthurian myths and legends. Turns out: a whole heap! Though less graphic novels than I'd been expecting. Yes, we've got everything from gangland Arthur to high-school-teen Arthur, through muppet Arthur and Python Arthur to some actual historical retellings of the stories made famous by authors like Geoffrey of Monmouth, Sir Thomas Malory and John Steinbeck. Yes. STEINBECK.

Apologies for all the links, but here is just the very tip of Auckland Libraries' Arthurian iceberg:

Arthurian series
Twilight of Avalon trilogy / Anna Elliott (Trystan and Isolde)
Guinevere trilogy / Persia Woolley
Pendragon's banner / Helen Hollick (Arthur)
Hawk of May / Gillian Bradshaw (Gwalchmai/Gawain)
Camelot / Sarah Zettel (Gawain, Geraint, Gareth and Agrivaine)
Lords of Avalon / Kinley MacGregor (Sherrilyn Kenyon) (original characters - also available as graphic novels)
Guenevere series and Tristan and Isolde series / Rosalind Miles
Arthurian mystery series / Tony Hays (original characters)
Tales of Guinevere / Alice Borchardt
Malory's knights of Albion / Paul Finch (original characters)

Standalone novels
Damosel : in which the lady of the Lake renders a frank and often startling account of her wondrous life and times / Stephanie Spinner (Teen fiction)
Sword of the rightful king : a novel of King Arthur / Jane Yolen (Teen fiction)
Gwenhwyfar : the white spirit / Mercedes Lackey
Percival's angel and Merlin's harp / Anne Eliot Crompton (Teen fiction)
Here lies Arthur / Philip Reeve

Non-fiction
Visions of Camelot : great illustrations of King Arthur and his court / selected and edited by Jeff A. Menges
The death of King Arthur : a new verse translation / Simon Armitage
Exploring the world of King Arthur / Christopher Snyder ; original illustrations by Samuel Valentino
The true history of Merlin the Magician / Anne Lawrence-Mathers

DVDs
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
The adventures of Merlin (TV series)
More fiction and nonfiction Arthurian DVDs

Graphic novels
Muppet King Arthur
Excalibur [graphic novel] : the legend of King Arthur
More Arthurian graphic novels

And in no particular order, my top picks for unusual takes on the Arthurian tales:

(Book 1: King Maker)
From the drug gangs of downtown Indianapolis, the one true king will arise. The King Arthur myth gets dramatically retold through the eyes of street hustler King, as he tries to unite the crack dealers, gangbangers and the monsters lurking within them to do the right thing.

The Round Table is now relocated to a greasy diner, according to reviewer R.J. (at the Sci-Fi Guys Book Review blog), who gives the first book in the series 9 out of a possible 10 Tardises!

Caliber. First canon of justice [graphic novel] / writer, Sam Sarkar ; artist, Garrie Gastonny
From visionary writer Sam Sarkar comes a stunning reinvention of the Arthurian legend where the might of the Round Table rides the Old West with guns blazing. In the far reaches of the Old Pacific Northwest lies a world where lawlessness runs rampant and only a mystical six-shooter forged from the metal of the legendary Excalibur can balance the scales. With Caliber in hand and posse at his side, Arthur must fulfill his destiny as the Lawbringer to defeat evil and restore order to his home.

In which the classic story is transplanted to the Wild West (for my favourite Western cross-over so far, see Shannon Hale's Rapunzel's Revenge, a junior graphic novel set in a fairytalish West). The artwork on this looks great.

Avalon High / Meg Cabot
Avalon High, Ellie's new school, is pretty much what she'd expected. There's Lance, the hunky footballer. Jennifer, the cute cheerleader. Marco, the troublemaker. And then there's Will - the most gorgeous guy Ellie's ever met. She can hardly believe he likes HER. When Will says he thinks he's met Ellie before, things start getting a little weird. A feeling that grows as Ellie discovers the strange bonds that entwine Will, Lance, Jen, Marco - and herself. As darkness turns to danger, can Ellie stop the horrific chain of events that is about to engulf them all . . .

Meg Cabot's Avalon High - about a group of teen schoolfriends who may be reincarnations of various Arthurian figures - is also available as a series of graphic novels.  

Diana Lively is falling down / by Sheila Curran
Like the legendary London Bridge, Diana Lively has been transplanted from England to the Arizona desert. Trained as an architect and top in her class, she makes dollhouses. Widowed at a young age, she distrusted people who were kind to her, and married Ted, the one man who wasn't. Maybe it's a good thing that Diana Lively's life is suddenly out of her control. A brash American billionaire wants to put up a King Arthur Theme Park smack in the middle of the Arizona desert. With dollar signs dancing in its head, Oxford University is only too happy to send Ted Lively, their resident Arthurian expert, to consult on the project. There, in the most unlikely place, in the most surprising ways, Diana is about to discover that the happiness she thought was lost forever can shower down on her again, can flood her dry life like a lake in the desert, and make it bloom. Oh, and Ted. Ted is about to discover that there is justice in the world...

Only tangentially about King Arthur, but it gets great reviews and is supposed to be very funny. Theme parks provide great settings (see another Shannon Hale recommendation, the lovely Austenland novels, for instance).

The acts of King Arthur and his noble knights / John Steinbeck ; edited by Chase Horton ; with a foreword by Christopher Paolini.

Morte d’Arthur was one of the first books that John Steinbeck enjoyed reading as a child, and it became a favourite story to read to his own children. Here now is Steinbeck’s only work of fantasy literature—his modernisation of Malory’s adventures of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, who together took the oath of knightship, swearing never to use violence without good purpose, to be merciful, to protect women, and never to fight for an unjust cause or personal gain. Here are the iconic and legendary tales of King Arthur, Guinevere, Sir Lancelot, Merlin, and Morgan le Fay.

Okay, this one gets in not so much for it's unlikeliness (it is fairly much a standard retelling), as for the fact that I never knew Steinbeck wrote a book about King Arthur. There's a good review of it here, on Curled Up With a Good Book.

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