I am very glad that Diana's very last novel was completed by her sister and finally published - but it just fell short of my expectations of a DWJ booI am very glad that Diana's very last novel was completed by her sister and finally published - but it just fell short of my expectations of a DWJ book. To me, it started as a DWJ book but clearly didn't end as one. Still quite an entertaining read, but it just... fell flat....more
I'm Team Yang Wen-li. (OK this review does not help much but I'll try to come back later with something more coherent! For now: I immensely enjoyed thI'm Team Yang Wen-li. (OK this review does not help much but I'll try to come back later with something more coherent! For now: I immensely enjoyed this book.)...more
One of the best modern adaptation of Arthurian legends - a murder mystery, and although you probably have known the gist of the story, this novel stilOne of the best modern adaptation of Arthurian legends - a murder mystery, and although you probably have known the gist of the story, this novel still captivates with its take on the poisoning of Sir Patrise. I love how it stays close to Malory's original while adding rich details to the characters and the plot. I'm a fan of Kay and the Orkney brothers, so it was such a delight to read a story that focuses on them with basically no intervention by more popular figures of the legends like Lancelot. I love the interactions between the brothers. I love how the novel delves more into the characters people love to paint in black and white, like Kay and Mordred. I love Nimue and Morgan too.
Found this book in a nice secondhand English book store in Gotanda, Tokyo. The owner was so nice: my total purchase was actually XXX4 yen. He asked meFound this book in a nice secondhand English book store in Gotanda, Tokyo. The owner was so nice: my total purchase was actually XXX4 yen. He asked me whether I had 4 yen and I said no, I only had 1 yen. He smiled, "That's good enough," and took my 1 yen and added it to 3 yen coins he fished out from his pocket.
ANYWAY. I really enjoy reading this book, which finally shed light on me on why knights in Morte Darthur behaved differently.
There are three knight types in Malory's book: The Heroic - represented by Gawain The Worshipful - represented by Tristram, Pellinore, Gallahad, Lamorak and King Arthur himself The True - represented by Lancelot (my least favourite)
At the end of Morte Darthur though, there were only two types left: the Heroic and the True - no Worshipful knight was left, they've all been killed.
And it is of interest that the maker of Winchester Round Table put Arthur flanked by Mordred and Gallahad.
This is a very interesting read for an Arthurian enthusiast! ...more
**spoiler alert** If you haven’t read Arthurian legends in full and do not wish to know the details beforehand, please be warned that this review is f**spoiler alert** If you haven’t read Arthurian legends in full and do not wish to know the details beforehand, please be warned that this review is full of ‘spoilers’. I suggest you read older sources like Malory's first to understand all of the jokes in this book first.
I finally read White’s The Once and Future King in full. It felt like reaching a height I had set my eyes upon since more than 20 years ago, and it left me in a watery-eyed elation. I still remember the day I found a copy of simplified version of the Arthurian legends in my dad’s drawer – he had used the book when he learnt English. Ever since then, the legends have always been a part of my life, although I’m not the kind of an obsessed person who can recall everything about the object that she greatly loves every time. I always need to consult my sources and my notes here and there.
Anyway, returning to the book. I have read the first part of TOAFK - The Sword in the Stone (TSITS) - several years ago, and I have watched the Disney’s version when I was a kid. Although when looking back again at the animation, armed with the knowledge of the original text, I dread the way the Disney team had made Kay regress to his notorious stereotypical self of being an evil, big bad bully of a brother. I still love Merlin, his song, and Archimedes, anyway.
TSITS is a feeling-good read, with all the charms and the magic and the funny bits, but the latter parts (or should I call them books?) - The Queen of Air and Darkness, The Ill-Made Knight, and The Candle in the Wind were oftentimes brutal and off-handedly cold blooded in being realistic – a reality that is sprinkled everywhere with magic, where unicorns and dragons are talked of so casually as if they’re real. In fact, White made his story as if it’s history, stating that it was the Plantagenets and the Capets that were imaginary. Deliberate anachronism makes TOAFK a delightful read, while the Arthurian ‘internal jokes’ will make those who know chuckle amusedly. The last part of the book was especially contemplatively dark.
What makes TOAFK so special is the way White gives depth – gives flesh to the characters. I have mentioned above about his Kay. The day I read how Kay cried because he felt like he’s been unjustly treated by Merlyn was the day I knew I’d love this Kay forever – despite his well-known mischief. I love White’s Arthur so much. I think he managed to trace the development of Arthur’s character well, beginning with his early education with Merlyn and ending with old, plain Arthur looking back on everything that he’d done and what turned out of them.
And I even think I understand his Lancelot. I don’t know when I started disliking Lancelot. Oftentimes I look at him with contempt. But White explained, analysed Lancelot’s character growth – a young boy who trained so hard to be Arthur’s best knight, who felt jealousy towards the young queen who he thought had robbed Arthur’s love from him – but ending up being the lady’s (not so) secret lover while still thinking that he’s done no treachery to the King. At the end I still dislike the figure called ‘Sir Lancelot’, but I have seen another side of him. The same thing goes to Guenevere. The portrait of the lady was so strong, so compelling, you can’t help but admire her even a bit. She’s not just the damsel in distress who tore nations and friends, although still some of her words and actions in TOAFK made me feel like tearing my hair out of my head in disbelief.
And Elaine, the lady who bore Lancelot his son Galahad, was given even more importance than ever, more sympathetic characterization. She’s no longer a mere weak lady who just pleaded for Lancelot’s love and then committed suicide. You can even forgive her for the tricks she did to Lancelot to win his heart.
I also love the way White portrayed the Orkney brothers, my favourite bunch of knights of all. At first I was wondering what was the importance of the sadistic slaying of unicorns done by the four older brothers in The Queen of Air and Darkness, but it became apparent in the latter parts. Gawaine is still adorable, speaking with his Scottish accent and living with his mistrust of ‘the Southron’ cowards. And Gareth, ah, fair and beautiful blue-eyed Gareth! So lovely, so tragic! I almost cried when Gawaine remembered his little brother, how his hair was almost white when he was small... Tragic also was Mordred, the victim of her mother’s dark affection, the boy who was not supposed to be born, and who was meant to die as soon as he saw the world, but survived and wrought his wrath. Yet I cannot hate him.
And of King Pellinore and his kin! The king, the comic relief, the nice soul that makes us laugh with his silliness. It’s just too sad there’s not much to say about the lovable Aglovale in the last book except for his death. And Percivale, dearest Percy, which we were told, was as gentle and kind-hearted a person as his father had been – I knew you’d be granted the sight of the Holy Grail and that was the end of your life, and White gave me more reason to mourn for you even more although you’ve never really appeared in the book, only in the conversations held by other people.
White paid homage to Malory here and there. Sometimes he didn’t bother explaining anything that had been elaborated in great details by Malory (for instance, who unhorsed who in a tournament, whom in turn was unhorsed by who...). He even just advised us to read Malory for such details. He used different methods to tell the tales from different angles, including conversations of people about things that have happened. Somehow, this method works. We know about Percy this way. But the most amazing feat this method succeeded in was in bringing about the figure of Galahad. Just like Percy, he never did really appear in the book, except as a baby. But we learnt about him from the other knights who talked to Arthur about the Holy Grail quest – about how such a stuck-up, self-righteous, unmannered person he was, so inhuman – but then Lancelot summed up the explanation in a very simple question: Why should an angel be a human? Thus the strong presence of Galahad, oft-said the character that mirrors Jesus, was felt without he himself being really there.
Some questions still hang in the back of my mind, though. I have never felt comfortable with the way some writers, or at least their characters, treat Guenevere and ladies like Morgause differently. It is clear that Guenevere has cheated her husband, two-timing him for years and years, yet most people still did not think bad of her. She’s still their chaste queen, and even Lancelot dared to lie in front of the King, that they had done nothing wrong of the romantic sort. But it was wrong for strong-willed Morgause, portrayed as a witch like her sisters, to take lovers as she willed. Or was it that the Queen and the Commander did not think what they did was wrong? Was it the question of Guinevere’s for Lancelot (and for Arthur) was pure love, while Morgause’s for anyone was not? White was just following the pattern set by the former (Medieval?) writers, and it was not for him to do fairer to the female characters than he’d already done. Many more recent interpretations were more sympathetic to the ladies.
And this is just my guess, but World War II, maybe both World Wars, shadowed this book. Not only a new take of the Arthurian legends, this book is also a contemplation of the human nature and the great wars, of the question about whether it’s right to defend Right against Might using Might. Tears blurred my eyes as I read Gawaine’s last letter to Lancelot, and when Arthur thought deeply about what his deeds had come to. It was the most emotionally gripping version of Arthurian legends I’ve come across. ...more