BookTalk is a new series of blog posts, where I discuss non-Tolkien books in concise and honest reviews. Read on dear reader …
The Once and Future King recounts the journey of a young Arthur as he becomes king of Britain and is mentored by the wizard Merlyn on the ideas of chivalry, justice and human nature.
I approached this book with some caution, not knowing exactly what to expect. Yet, the wealth of positive reviews I had read prior to purchasing it, became a very exciting prospect. Indeed, I fell in love with the narrative from the first few pages.
The massive tome of over 850 pages is a beautiful collection of 5 short novels written between 1938 and 1941:
- The Sword in the Stone
- The Witch in the Wood
- The Ill-Made Knight
- The Candle in the Wind
- The Book of Merlyn
White’s writing is exceptionally sublime, easy to follow and at the same time explores some rather intricate themes and philosophical ideas. The stories are filled with memorable characters besides the ones most notable from Arthurian literature. The humour, the passion, the companionship, along with particular anachronistic elements within its pages, are what make The Once and Future King a truly remarkable reading experience.
There is also a sense of evolution in the tone of writing as one progresses to each successive book, as the atmosphere becomes darker and more removed from the child-like qualities of The Sword in the Stone. This is cleverly executed, and is an appropriate change of style as the events in the stories lead up to the eve of the battle of Camlann, Arthur’s final battle.
It is a shame that the fifth book in the collection, The Book of Merlyn, was left unfinished by the author, and contains some passages that were reproduced from The Sword in the Stone. Nevertheless, the entire volume has a sense of finality to it, one that makes the reading experience a truly magnificent journey worth taking.
Readers fascinated by the King Arthur mythology will love this book.
Meanwhile, if you have any reading suggestions for similar books, I’m all ears! 🙂