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The Death of King Arthur

3.25  ·  Rating details ·  813 ratings  ·  137 reviews
An immortal story of love, adventure, chivalry, treachery and death brought to new life for our times. The legend of King Arthur has retained its appeal and popularity through the ages - Mordred's treason, the knightly exploits of Tristan, Lancelot's fatally divided loyalties and his love for Guenever, the quest for the Holy Grail. ...more
Hardcover, 316 pages
Published September 1st 2010 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)

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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
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really old stories tug on your suspension of disbelief in a way that probably bugs modern readers more than it bugged readers of the time, but this reselling of Malory manages to capture what appeals to people even now about Arthurian legend. It's cool to get swept up in a story that's so old. ...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
Maya Panika
Nov 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 19, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, classics
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
This is one of the many works that is referenced in art and poetry, which I’ve been meaning to read to furnish my understandings of those works better.

I’d kind of heard of King Arthur but until now I’ve never made the connection to Guinevere, Lancelot, Sir Galahad, Sir Gawain, Merlin, Tristram, Isolde, connection to Christianity and the Holy Grail. This is a modern retell of Malory’s text (thought to be first published in 1485), which is available in two volumes on Gutenberg and written in Old E
Mar 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
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 course, fought th
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020-reads
Ackroyd's retelling of the Arthurian legend lacks the magic I was hoping for. Well written but it's missing something...
I much preferred Simon Armitage's version aswell as the classic by T.H. White.
Jan 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this because I love the Arthurian legends and thought this would be more accessible than the original text. It was, but it also felt a little flat and repetitive. I've read much more exciting and interesting interpretations of King Arthur's story. ...more
Paging Snidget
Oct 25, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Utterly, utterly boring. This was a hard slog to get through.
Andrew Jacobson
Feb 12, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Feb 23, 2017 rated it liked it
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-Worth
May 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
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 rated it did not like it
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
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. ...more
Erin Britton
May 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Tom Graham
Dec 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Ian Casey
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of these days I'll tackle one of the full versions of Le Mort d'Arthur (either Winchester or Caxton), such as my Barnes & Noble edition or Penguin Classics' two-volume set. For now, there is this streamlined 2010 re-translation by the absurdly prolific and polymathic Peter Ackroyd.

He provides an interpretation, not in the Baz Luhrmann's Romeo & Juliet sense, but in the way of updating the language to give a modern reader an experience of the text as close as possible to that which the origin
May 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
Essentially a collection of a hundred or so vignettes (I didn't bother to count), this book seems incredibly mis-titled because Arthur's death is only the last section. Even calling it The Life of King Arthur would've been incorrect, as his story really only bookends the collection. Not even bookending it, actually, as it starts with Merlin and finishes with both Guinevere and Lancelot. So if stories of Merlin, Guinevere, and Lancelot are the bread of this sandwich, Arthur's account is the butte ...more
Sam Wilkinson
Part of Christmas Reading Challenge (a book with a red cover).

I used to love stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the round table. Who, growing up in the UK, hasn't heard of the Lady of the Lake, of Excalibur? Of Guinevere and Lancelot?

This is a re-working of the original written in the 1400s by Sir Thomas Malory, so it was written in a different time and set around the year 400, and I really did try to take that into account.

Alas, the story was disjointed, and the setting felt more like th
Weltenburger Kloster
I really much appreciated finding this retelling of Morte d'Arthur from the library, in Finland you don't often find many arthurian books by chance, and I thought also a modern language version to be a good thing... And yes, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I almost gave it five stars, then put it down to four...

However. I find it disturbing that this Ackroyd -guy has his name printed so big, almost as big as king Arthur's, as the book seems pretty much just a contemporary prose version of the
I think this is a good starting point if you're intimidated by the size or medieval works of literature like Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte de'Arthur. I have not read the original, for a variety of reasons, the strongest being I had a high school English teacher advise me to read T.H. White's A Once and Future King first. I read that book a year or two ago and didn't love it. So I was hesitant to move on to the original. However, I've had this on my shelf for a few years so I decided to go for it ...more
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy, contemporary re-writing of "Le Morte d'Arthur." This works well for anyone wishing to introduce themselves to the basic tales without working through the original narrative. Be warned, however: in his attempt to render a concise, contemporary retelling, Ackroyd robs the story of its lush prose. This is, for all intents and purposes, a good intro to the legends of Camelot, but it is by no means a great telling in its own right. I give it four stars because I came to it expecting a concise r ...more
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
Arthur is tricky for me--as the written word never matches the legacy or mythic resonance in my mind. This is true for both Malory, Steinbeck and also Ackroyd's rendition.

I think at this point we are at the point that only deconstruction, decadence/burlesque will work. I like the Mad Merlin Trilogy, Matt Wagner's Mage, Monty Python, Mists of Avalon (although she creeps me out now), hell--I even liked Guy Ritchie's King Arthur.

I don't think we are quite at the reaffirmation stage of the narrativ
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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

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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”
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“As a result of Malory’s plangent and often elaborate prose, the song of Arthur has never ended. Le Morte d’Arthur inspired both Milton and Dryden with dreams of Arthurian epic, and in the nineteenth century Tennyson revived the themes of Malory in Idylls of the King. William Morris wrote The Defence of Guenevere , and Algernon Swinburne composed Tristram of Liones. The Round Table was reconstituted in the libraries of nineteenth-century England.” 0 likes
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