by Cathi MacRae, Young Adult Librarian, Boulder Public Library and Carol Heepke, Booklook Editor

An excellent nonfiction source for background on the legend is Quest for a King: Searching for the Real King Arthur by Catherine M. Andronik (1989, Atheneum.). Named Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association, this book tells how Arthur really lived--if he lived at all. It traces the development of the myth through the Middle Ages and has excellent illustrations of archeological evidence, sites and objects associated with Arthur.

T.H. White's The Once and Future King (Collins, 1958) has endured since 1937 as one of the most popular introductions to the legends. White also wrote The Book of Merlyn (University of Texas Press, 1977) which has become very popular with young adult audiences. Rosemary Sutcliff is one of the best and most prolific fiction writers using Arthurian motifs. Her trilogy, The Sword and the Circle (Dutton, 1981), The Light beyond the Forest (Dutton, 1979), and The Road to Camlann (Dutton, 1982) are the finest retellings of the original legend for youth. Her adult novel Sword at Sunset (Coward McCan, 1963) places Artos the Bear in the Dark Ages with meticulous historical accuracy. In its prequel for young readers, The Lantern-Bearers (Walck, 1959) fictional Romanized Briton Aquila meets the young Artos. Thomas Berger's fat adult novel Arther Rex (Delacorte, 1978) makes comedy of the legend's gaps between reality and romance.

Several fine trilogies top the list of other fiction:

  • Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy includes The Crystal Cave (1970), The Hollow Hills (1973), and The Last Enchantment (1979). Stewart's The Wicked Day is also a treatment of the the Arthur myth (Fawcett Crest Paperbacks, 1983).
  • The first volume of Patricia Kennealy's projected Tales of Arthur is The Hawk's Grey Feather (Penguin/ROC, 1990), which connects Arthur to her Celtic trilogy, The Keltiad (Dutton).
  • Persia Woolley's trilogy focuses on Guinevere in Child of the Northern Spring (1987), Queen of the Summer Stars (1990) and Guinevere: The Legend in Autumn (Simon & Schuster, 1991) as does Sharan Newman in her three books: Guinevere (1981), The Chessboard Queen (1983) and Guinevere Evermore (St. Martins Press, 1985).
  • Gillian Bradshaw's darkly lyrical trilogy which includes Hawk of May (1980), Kingdom of Summer (1981), and In Winter's Shadow (Simon &Schuster, 1982) differs from others by centering on Gawain and drawing mainly on Welsh sources.
  • Parke Godwin's adult trilogy renders the entire legend in rich historic detail in Firelord (Doubleday, 1980), Beloved Exile (Bantam, 1984) and The Last Rainbow (Bantam, 1985). Invitation to Camelot (Ace, 1988) is an anthology featuring stories by Tanith Lee, Morgan Llywelyn, Jane Yolen, and others.
  • Stephen Lawhead's Pendragon Cycle focuses on the panoramic sweep of the legend, beginning in Atlantis in Taliesin (Avon, 1987). Merlin (1988), Arthur (1989), and Pendragon (1994) continue the series.

    Other books that we have found Young Adults enthusiastic about:

  • Black Horses for the King by Anne McCaffrey
  • Merlin's Dreams (Delacorte, 1988) by Peter Dickinson
  • The Elixir (Knopf, 1971) by Robert Nathan
  • The Book of Brendan (Holiday House, 1989) by Ann Curry
  • Excalibur (Ballantine, 1978) by Sanders Anne Laubenthal
  • Winter of Magic's Return (Atheneum, 1985) by Pamela F. Service; also Tomorrow's Magic (Atheneum, 1987)
  • The Last Pendragon (1991, Walker & Company) by Robert Rice

    In the last hundred years, at least two hundred versions of Arthur's legend in fiction have delighted readers. Happy Arthur-hunting!

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