King Arthur is probably the most famous and certainly the most legendary medieval king. From the early ninth century through the middle ages, to the Arthurian romances of Victorian times, the tales of this legendary figure have blossomed and multiplied. And in more recent times, there has been a continuous stream of books claiming to have discovered the "facts" about, or to unlock the secret or truth behind, the "once and future king". Broadly speaking, there are two Arthurs. On the one hand is the traditional "historical" Arthur, waging a doomed struggle to save Roman civilization against the relentless Anglo-Saxon tide during the darkest years of the Dark Ages. On the other is the Arthur of myth and legend - accompanied by a host of equally legendary people, places, and stories: Lancelot, Guinevere, Galahad and Gawain, Merlin, Excalibur, the Lady in the Lake, the Sword in the Stone, Camelot, the Round Table. The big problem with all this is that "King Arthur" might well never have existed. And if he did exist, it is next to impossible to say anything at all about him.
As this challenging new look at the Arthur legend makes clear, all books claiming to reveal "the truth" behind King Arthur can safely be ignored. Not only the "red herrings" in the abundant pseudo-historical accounts, even the "historical" Arthur is largely a figment of the imagination: The evidence that we have - whether written or archaeological - is simply incapable of telling us anything detailed about the Britain in which he is supposed to have lived, fought, and died. The truth, as Guy Halsall reveals in this fascinating investigation, is both radically different - and also a good deal more intriguing.
I may come back to this someday when I'm in a more "pretentious and scholarly" frame of mind, but somehow I doubt it. I love history, I love Arthurian legend, and I love that space between the two where stories collide. This book should have had me at hello. The research is there, but the presentation... for the love of Skippy, it's as dry as a Cracker Barrel biscuit, and just about as bland. It's like if the professor from The Paper Chase had written this book with an agenda of vengeance. I've literally been beaten with swords and found it more entertaining than this slog.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
This book was hard to read / listen to and, sadly, I didn't even manage to make it halfway, other history buffs might enjoy this title but unfortunately it was not for me.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Narrator is a little stiff and po faced, and misses some of Halsalls wit and humour, but none the less an excellebt book!