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The Death of King Arthur

3.21  ·  Rating Details ·  623 Ratings  ·  108 Reviews
A gripping retelling of the timeless epic of romance, enchantment and adventure, Peter Ackroyd's The Death of King Arthur recasts Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur in clear, compelling modern English prose, published in Penguin Classics.

'In the old wild days of the world there was a King of England known as Uther Pendragon; he was a dragon in wrath as well as in power
Paperback, 316 pages
Published June 2nd 2011 by Penguin Classics (first published 2010)
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Mighty The best modern English renditions of the Winchester Le Morte are Lumiansky (out of print), and the Oxford World's Classic by Helen Cooper (abridged).…moreThe best modern English renditions of the Winchester Le Morte are Lumiansky (out of print), and the Oxford World's Classic by Helen Cooper (abridged). The best modern English renditions of the Caxton are the two volume Penguin Paperbacks. The Keith Baines rendition Signet press is very readable, but does alter the text in various surprising ways; the Ackroyd novel I found to be overwritten and thouroughly annoying. (less)

Community Reviews

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Courtney Johnston
I wanted so much to enjoy this book. I hesitate to say 'love this book', because I'm not an Ackroyd fan, but the subject matter here - I am a die-hard Arthur groupie - should have made this an easy win.

However. I found Ackroyd's retelling flatfooted, emotionless, and barren. Stripped back prose I might have admired, but here we get stripped back storytelling.

The King Arthur story has been a massive part of my imaginative life since I was little. My first introduction, I think, was Roger Lancelyn
This was my first sally forth into the Arthurian legend and it was absorbing, surprising, and absolutely lovable. This is a very different picture of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table than I got from Disney's The Sword and the Stone. For one thing, it is much, much darker. Arthur is a very Oedipal character, going to extreme lengths (e.g. drowning a shipful of infants) to avoid Merlin's prophecy that he would be murdered. Fun fact: did you know that Excalibur was not the sword that Arthu ...more
Peter Ackroyd's retelling of Malory's tales purports to be a modernisation, a revivification, even. I don't think it really achieves its goals. Flawed as Malory's work is, to the modern reader at least, I think there's a passion there and a meaning that slips through Ackroyd's fingers. He cuts liberally from the text, so that it certainly doesn't hold the richness of Malory -- if you're looking for something simplified, abridged, I might even venture to say dumbed down, then Peter Ackroyd's rete ...more
La Mala ✌
Apr 27, 2016 La Mala ✌ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arthuriana
Mucho mejor que la versión de Lang.
Me faltaría leer el original de Malory (Le Morte d'Arthur: King Arthur and the Legends of the Round Table), después ir más atrás, y animarme con los romances de Chrétien de Troyes.
Algún día...
Maya Panika
I’ve been a huge fan of the Arthurian legends since childhood, I read Malory’s Morte d’Arthur till it literately fell apart. I’m also a fan of Peter Ackroyd - his books on London, Dickens and Blake are memorable in bringing their subjects so vividly to life - so The Death of King Arthur was doubly disappointing to me. Malory’s stories are already so well-known, I was expecting an imaginative, inventive re-telling, something more like Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, but this was a stodgy, stolid transla ...more
David Manns
Not so much a retelling of the Arthurian legends, more a new translation and abridgement. Ackroyd has taken Malory's text and retold it in the modern idiom, along the way removing much of the contradictions and superfluous descriptions of battles that clog up the original text. However by doing so he has lost some of the poetry of the language. To be honest the first part of the book is a bit of a slog and it is only when the Quest for the Grail begins that things take off we are carried along t ...more
Mar 23, 2011 Caroline rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Does the world need a new retelling of the Arthurian saga? Particularly one that, and forgive me for this, feels so dumbed-down?

I have read many of Ackroyd's non-fiction books and I have always been very impressed with him as a writer, but I couldn't help but be disappointed with this. It smacks of those 'modern' revisions of the Bible, where it may be more 'accessible' (and how I hate that word in connection with literature) but much of the beauty and majesty of the language is lost. This book
I can't count myself in the ranks of fans for King Arthur stories. They should be exciting or adventurous (even though I have never read the originals), but instead they seemed rendered dull by this version. This thing is over 300 pages & the plot line pretty much repeats every three pages or so. I guess that makes it about 100 times I read a similar scenario over & over & over.... It becomes rather mind-numbing after a point.

A slog, but as a good knight (or lady), I stayed the cours
Andrew Jacobson
The Death of King Arthur: The Immortal Legend by Thomas Malory; adapted by Peter Ackroyd (New York: Viking Adult, 2011. 336 pp) Originally Posted at

Peter Ackroyd, CBE, is a British biographer and novelist. His biographies include those of Charles Dickens, T.S. Eliot, and Sir Thomas Moore.

Sir Thomas Malory (1405-1471) was an English writer and poet, and compiler of Le Morte d'Arthur.

In Praise of Honor and Valor (Or Honour and Valour)

Always a fan of the legend of
Stacie (MagicOfBooks)
I will also do a video review here at my channel:

I don't have too much to really say about this book. I've already previously read "Le Morte D'Arthur" by Thomas Mallory in it's original Middle English for a college course on Arthurian legend. I mostly picked up this book simply for the beautiful cover (so shiny!), and I also wanted to just read a contemporary translation, which the cover is advertising as "a retelling by Peter Ackroyd." I think Peter Ackroyd d
Jan 16, 2016 Mike rated it liked it
This "retelling" is a decent translation and (badly needed) abridgement of Mallory's Morte d'Arthur.

Which is both its strength and its weakness. The Arthurian material is wonderful. Mallory is perhaps the most inept storyteller in English literature. He sure ain't Chaucer. If you really love the Arthurian stories, read Gottfried von Strassburg, Chretien de Troyes, or any of dozens of others who have told these tales. Even T. H. White, whose extraordinarily inventive 20th-century version puts an
Feb 23, 2017 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed delving into the Arthurian myths especially in the safe hands of Peter Aykroyd. The stories were interesting if a little repetitive. Overall, the retelling is worth a read for historical value without igniting much excitement.
Kelsey Dangelo
After devouring and adoring Ackryod's brilliant retelling of The Canterbury Tales, I eagerly scooped up his rendition of Malory's The Death of King Arthur, which I always wanted to read, but was always rebuffed by the confusing, clumsy archaic prose. Malory was no writer, after all. He was an imprisoned knight. So, I was excited by Ackryod's readable retelling, to read the oldest literary telling of the wonderful King Arthur tales that have intrigued my imagination for decades.
Alas--and I do no
Laura Crosse
Jan 09, 2015 Laura Crosse rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Oh dear god....

You know those slapstick comedies that try so hard to be hilarious that they end up being not funny at all? This was kind of like that but it wasn't trying to be funny at all which made it possibly one of the most depressing books I've ever had to read. It was like a Monty Python skit but one that wasn't in the least bit humorous. I don't know how else to describe it.

I honestly don't know how much of the story is based on fact or fiction. I'm guessing it's loosely based on events
Lisa Wolf
It's hard to know how to rate this book. On the one hand, I'm sure this really is a "masterful" retelling of Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur, as the blurb on the cover claims. However, never having read any earlier translations or retellings, I don't have much of a basis for comparison.

Therefore, rather than rate the quality of the retelling, I can only rate this book as I would any other, whether contemporary or classic, and that would be based on my enjoyment of the reading experience.
Ackroyd retells Mallory's version of events which spawned a plethora of mythology and stories. I haven't read Mallory in ages, and it was with some surprise I recalled how different this Arthur is from the latest offering on Space channel.

Mallory's texts come from continental romances and oral accounts of the age of chivalry. The knights are more revengeful and stupid, for one. Arthur is not as noble as you think (killing all boy children of a certain age a la Pharaoh to avoid Merlin's prophesy
Erin Britton
May 09, 2017 Erin Britton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the wild old days of the world there was a king of England known as Uther Pendragon; he was a dragon in wrath as well as power. So goes the exciting, fitting beginning to The Death of King Arthur, Peter Ackroyd’s retelling of Sir Thomas Malory’s sublime Le Morte d’Arthur. Ackroyd’s version is certainly no reimaging, staying true as it does to the tone and subject matter of Malory’s original rather than dragging the epic Arthurian romantic saga kicking and screaming into the 21st century, alth ...more
Lauren Lee
The Death of King Arthur is a retelling of Malory's stories about King Arthur. Really what that entails is a simpler summary of the stories collected together in this volume. If you're not able to read Malory's text as well as you would like and simply want the stories then I think this is a good option. Otherwise, go for the actual text, I felt like much of the story was lost without Malory's writing.
Tom Graham
When you combine one of the greatest legends of all time and someone of Peter Ackroyd's previously evident writing ability you really expect something better than this. If you are considering this as your first experience of the arthurian legend then read Malory's original instead. If you want more read T.H.White's retelling. If you still want more then repeat.
Jun 22, 2017 Darci rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Eh, I don't think this book is in a genre I enjoy. Nothing against the abridged version, but the original story is just not for me.
I found parts tedious. I don't really believe in the same moral standard and that made the book less relatable. I enjoyed the Holy Grail stories but the love stories, bleh. No thanks.
Megan Pizzini
Serviceable, but I could have saved myself 6 hours and read Wikipedia. This book somehow made true love, battles, and sorcery almost painfully boring and repetitive.
R.L. Mosz
I didn't actually read this book. Goodreads put it in when I was trying to type in another title, and I could not seem to cancel it.
Claudia Putnam
May 01, 2014 Claudia Putnam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arthurian
I love Peter Ackroyd. Esp First Light, but also the opening to Hawksmoor was so scary I couldn't read it till I went on a flight and was surrounded by other people. It was too intense to read alone in the house I had in a long, dark canyon at the time.

I wonder if this Malory project drove him a little nuts. The result is no compelling novel, but...garbage in, garbage out. I always thought Malory's was the least interesting of the Arthurian reconstructions. In Stonehenge, John Aubrey makes the po
Sid Nuncius
I have been an enthusiast for the Arthurian legends ever since reading Roger Lancelyn Green as a child, and I have enjoyed many of Peter Ackroyd’s previous books so was looking forward to this very much. Sadly it was a considerable disappointment. It is an abridgement and “translation” of Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, but I am afraid that it doesn’t really capture Malory’s spirit, nor the high, myth-like drama of the tales of magic and flawed heroes.

Ackroyd’s prose is generally very flat which robs t
Miriam Joy
I can't speak for the accuracy of this as a retelling of Malory -- I didn't get very far with that, finding it too dense and the print in my edition too small. Ackroyd, by virtue of condensing the story and having readable print, at least kept me interested for 300+ pages, although I was baffled as ever by the lack of intelligence and common sense displayed by medieval characters. (Tramtrist: not a subtle nickname for Tristram. And yet it works. WHY.) It's a readable enough retelling -- nothing ...more
Feb 25, 2013 Emrys rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of classics teens and adults
Shelves: ya, adult, classic
Filled with beautiful classic tales, this book taught many lessons. Some lessons were to follow the actions of the chivalrous, and some were to do the opposite. I like how there were heroes among both women and men, and that no one was whittled into an image of perfection. Even Lancelot and Arthur are seen at their worst, illogical, lustful, and sinful. Their flaws are acknowledged but forgiven.

Possibly the best part of the book is the strength of love among the men. Their bond truly is above an
Feb 22, 2013 Sandra rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
I love everything that has to to do with the Arthur Legend, and truth be told what is not to love about that time in age.

This book contains a retelling about the legend as we all know it. It doesn't offer much new insight to the matter and the storytelling isn't all that it can be.

Some parts are written fast, but others I found dull and hard to get through. I don't know if it's the writers 'fault' since I haven't read any other books by him, or that he found the matter dull himself. It's more l
Sep 02, 2012 Nichole rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In all honesty, even though I love Arthurian legend, this book was a bit boring. I found the writing blunt, flat and uninteresting. It wasn't until the later chapters of the book -- Lancelot and Guinevere -- that I really felt the author was doing the original myth justice. Yes, Ackroyd eliminated many of the inconsistencies and superfluousness of Malory's original work, but he also lost the poetry of the prose and the magic of the tale. People read King Arthur because it's heroic, epic and magi ...more
Autor "Śmierci króla Artura" przedstawia czytelnikowi uwspółcześnioną pod kątem językowym wersję jednego z najsłynniejszych romansów rycerskich, nadając mu przejrzystość, dzięki czemu łatwiej jest oddać się lekturze. Usunął powtórzenia i bardzo skrócił sceny batalistyczne, które kończą się tu najczęściej prostym ścięciem głowy tudzież wymianą kilku ciosów. Przyznam, że w tym względzie oczekiwałam czegoś więcej, żywszego obraz z pola bitwy, a nie sprowadzenia walki do prostego „i jednym cięciem p ...more
The gilded cover illustrated with bloody knights slaying things sold it for me. Bonus- every illustration on the covers flaps are actually in the book, you can make it a game matching them up! This is another good retelling of King Arthur and his bros who are always really excited to go on adventures. They don't like sitting around knitting, that's for sure. Enjoyable, well edited, an easy and sometimes laughable reading romp around Arthurian Britain. I enjoyed Ackroyd's interpretation, and foun ...more
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Peter Ackroyd CBE is an English novelist and biographer with a particular interest in the history and culture of London.

Peter Ackroyd's mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, his father having left the family home when Ackroyd was a baby. He was reading newspapers by the age of 5 and, at 9, wrote a play about Guy Fawkes. Reputedly, he first realized he was gay at the age
More about Peter Ackroyd...

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“Elaine turned to her father in her distress. ‘Father will you give me permission to ride after Sir Lancelot? I must reach him. Otherwise I will go out of my mind with grief.’
‘Go, good daughter. Rescue him, if you can.’
So she made herself ready for the journey, weeping all the time. Gawain himself rode back to the court of the king in London”
–The Fair Maid of Astolat”
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