It's very hard to rate the collection as a whole - "The Ill-Made Knight" as the longest installment is top-notch, almost flawless aside from its complIt's very hard to rate the collection as a whole - "The Ill-Made Knight" as the longest installment is top-notch, almost flawless aside from its complimentary flaw of drawing such simply human portraits from archetypal characters that its fairy-tale conventions become less credible blights (I'm not talking about magic coexisting with realism as much as the trappings and misunderstandings feeling too foolish for thicker-than-fabled personalities to fall into, even when the classic tale obviously mounts them into those misfortunes). I can't recommend the White treatment to mythological purists, nor do I think a complete Arthurian newbie would really get it either, but for anyone like me who is just aware enough to have Opinions, or at least will lap up anything with an emotional treatment of The Eternal Threesome Triangle that is Lance and Gwen's forgiven betrayal of King Sad Boo, holy shiz the feelings...for a while, at least. The characterization is potent at times, uneven at others, and by the end Arthur feels like a hollow visage of political angst, and if we're meant to still care about these beloved characters and their relationships, White just isn't really following the same ball that we might be by then.
The breakdown: Sword in the Stone: 3/5. It's delightful and funny at times but gets a little monotonous; it's fun to compare notes if you're a fan of the Disney movie. The Queen of Air and Darkness: 3.5/5. I love both the more humorous segments with the Questing Beast and the foreshadowing set-up with Arthur's future enemies, but the tone feels like a merely decent best effort to do both foreboding and lighthearted as a transition between the first and third books. The Ill-Made Knight: 5/5. Arthur could have been delved into more, but Guenever and Lancelot as the main character studies is an important choice that earns no insult from me. The Candle In The Wind: 4/5. Some excellent character moments, and the omissions of sentiment are sometimes as poignant as the declarations, though at other times frustrating. Feels rushed to its conclusion, in a way that has nothing to do with glazing over the final battle. The Book of Merlyn: 2/5. White suddenly gives it the treatment of characters-as-political-philosophy-puppets, a fine thing when it's shown but not so much when it's told, in outlined lecture. Then a quick sort of epilogue is all we get of the fate of several different characters. It is both a weakness and a strength that Merlin is one of the least interesting characters in the White treatment overall....more
This may deviate from other installments in the series in being more of a rediscovery than a reinvention, but it's a nice gem for anyone who is enthusThis may deviate from other installments in the series in being more of a rediscovery than a reinvention, but it's a nice gem for anyone who is enthusiastic or curious about the myths. Byatt tells the tales through a child's mind with a vivid richness that makes me think of what the Benicio del Toro or Tarsem Singh treatment would look like in a film (/obligatory clarification that books are great for having more subjective imagery than movies). I actually wanted a bit more of that thematic mashup with WWII, but it was interesting how the historical and the mythological felt told on equal levels of truth....more
A disclaimer that I'm never sure how to rate anthologies...I don't want to be hard on this collection but it's without one or two stories I'd recommenA disclaimer that I'm never sure how to rate anthologies...I don't want to be hard on this collection but it's without one or two stories I'd recommend as the go-to reason to pick up the book, unless it was to an Old Kingdom fanatic or someone with a particular preference for shorter stories-- maybe with the exception of "Hope Chest," which I thought was pretty cool. "The Creature in the Case" is decent but was apparently frustratingly brief and vague as a filler for that long wait after Abhorsen. I've always liked Nick Sayre but it made me begin to get him a bit more, I think (and his obvious fixation on Lirael is pretty endearing, NGL...they'll make an adorably odd couple if that's where it's going). ...more