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“As bright and vivid as the pictures in a Book of Hours. Deep scholarship, high imagination, and great gifts of storytelling have gone into this; I was spellbound.” – Philip Pullman, The Guardian
Though T.H. White is the inevitable comparison for Kevin Crossley-Holland’s extraordinary new novel, inspired by the Arthurian legends, American readers will also be reminded of Karen Cushman, for the earthy, rich portrayal of life in a medieval manner.
It’s 1199 and young Arthur de Caldicot is waiting impatiently to grow up and become a knight. One day, his father’s friend Merlin gives him a shining piece of obsidian, and his life becomes entwined with that of his namesake, the Arthur whose story he sees unfold in the stone.
Here is a novel that poignantly explores the larger themes of the Arthurian legends: destiny, the need for a life quest, the definite of justice - and who gets it in a world divided by class. And it does so without ever losing track of the humanity of its characters. An unforgettable and riveting drama.
“Merlin!” I called out, and I pointed to the sky’s peak, towering above us. “Look at that cloud!”
“I was,” said Merlin.
“It’s a silver sword. The sword of a giant king.”
“Once,” said Merlin, “there was a king with your name.”
“And he will be.”
“What do you mean? I thought you said . . .”
“I did,” said Merlin.
“Well, which?” I demanded. “He can’t live in two times.”
Merlin looked at me. “How do you know?” he asked, and his slateshine eyes were smiling and unsmiling.
Reviews and Awards
ALA Notable Book for Older Readers
Horn Book Fanfare Honor Book
Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist
New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
#3 selection on Children’s BookSense 76
Parents’ Guide Gold Award
Smarties Prize, Bronze Medal, ages 9-11
Shortlisted for the Whitbread Award
Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize
Welsh Books Council Children’s Fiction Prize
“Richly imagined.” - The New York Times
“An outstanding novel... The book brings alive the world of the Middle Ages.” - USA Today
⋆ “The interplay between vividly depicted medieval life and heroic legend illuminates both: the legend's idealism lends dignity and universality to the difficult realities of thirteenth-century life, while the earthy humanity of King John's subjects adds dimension to legendary characters enduring similar trials. The many parallels make a Merlin of the reader: it can be predicted that Arthur will triumph, and meet his doom, in the projected sequels, but how exactly will it work out? The continuing resonance of Arthurian legend, the inspired dual plot, an elegantly lucid narrative style plus a gift for lively dialogue—all add up to a compelling story. The sequels will be avidly anticipated.” - The Horn Book, starred review
⋆ “Crossley-Holland achieves a great deal here, from the fresh, engaging voice of Arthur to the ongoing mystery of how his life relates to the story in the stone that emerges in a series of vignettes. Knowledge of Arthurian legend heightens the sense of layered meanings; however, untutored readers will not be lost, but rather richer for discovering the tale here. Few historical novels achieve such a convincing sense of the medieval ages, and few first-person novels can boast such a convincing and sympathetic young narrator. The ending will leave readers eager for the next in this trilogy.” - Booklist, starred review
⋆“In this first volume of a planned Arthur Trilogy, British author Crossley-Holland inventively reworks the legend of the Round Table through he diary of a 13-year-old boy named Arthur, living in an English manor in the 12th century.... A clever, ethical and passionate hero - plus several intriguing loose ends—will have readers itching for the sequel.” - Publishers Weekly, starred review
Young Adult Fiction
Trim Size: 6" x 9"
Page Count: 336
Foreign Rights: Orion Children's Books
Translation Rights: Orion Children's Books
Rights Available? yes